When grains are processed to become refined carbohydrates, the bran and germ are removed, removing the nutritive portion of the grain, leaving only the energy providing portion.
Whole grains provide essential nutrients that processed grains do not: fiber, vitamins (thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, folate) and minerals (iron, selenium [an antioxidant], magnesium). The USDA recommends you eat half of your starch servings as whole grains. I say, why waste calories on foods that don’t provide any health benefits [energy dense] when you can be providing your body with essential nutrients with every bite [nutrient dense]. In other words, I recommend ALWAYS chosing brown rice or quinoa over white.
Identifying whole grains:
- Read labels – look for “100% whole wheat” as the first ingredient
- “Whole grain” stamp on packages
Not just wheat: quinoa*, oats, corn*, amaranth*, barley, buckwheat*, brown rice*, wild rice*, rye, sorghum*, teff*, triticale
Helps control blood sugar levels
Regulates bowel movements, maintains integrity of the gut
Aids with weight loss
Soluble fiber lowers cholesterol
May also reduce blood pressure and decrease inflammation in the body – factors in heart disease
Soluble fiber: oats, barley, nuts, flaxseed, peas, beans, apple pulp, citrus fruits, strawberries, psyllium husk
Attracts water – turns to gel, slows digestion
Psyllium fiber supplement (Metamucil, Kyonsil) – take 1 teaspoon 3 times daily for cholesterol lowering benefits
Eating 15 grams of soluble fiber per day has been shown to lower LDL cholesterol by 10-15%
Slows the time that the contents move through the digestive tract – can help with diarrhea
Insoluble fiber: whole wheat flour, wheat bran, nuts, vegetables, fruits, rice, apple skin
Has been associated with decreased cardiovascular risk and slower progression of cardiovascular disease
Prevents constipation by increasing time food moves through the intestine
When increasing your fiber intake, remember to increase gradually to avoid GI distress and drink plenty of fluids to keep your bowels regular!