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The Whole Truth

We hear so much today about grains.  In addition to being low in fat, they are a wonderful source of complex carbohydrates.  But what differentiates whole grains from refined grains?  Let’s examine that question.

whole grains

Grains that have not been milled are whole grains; whole grains are filled with fiber, antioxidants, and a number of essential vitamins.  Grains with the bran and germ removed are known as refined grains.  Often times refined grains have a ‘finer” consistency and stay fresh longer.  Still, up to 80% of important vitamins and minerals become lost during the altering process.  Because of this, nutrients are often added back.  When this is the case, the product is referred to as enriched. Enriched grains could include spaghetti, pretzels, crackers, cereals, white bread, white rice, and white flour.

So, what’s all the hoopla about whole grains?  Well, when grains remain in their natural state (e.g., unprocessed), they have a number of exciting health benefits.  For example, a diet rich in whole grains may decrease the risk of potentially dangerous conditions like high blood pressure, cancer, respiratory disease, heart disease, diabetes, and obesity.  A notable study from a renowned New England institution showed that females who ate two to three servings of whole grains per day over a ten year period were 30% less likely to suffer a heart attack than women who consumed less than one serving per day.  A separate study indicated that women who ate two to three servings of whole grains per day over fifteen to eighteen years were less likely to develop Type 2 diabetes.  Yet another study taking place over a seventeen year stretch indicated that women who regularly ate whole grains were less likely to succumb to inflammatory conditions when compared to their minimal or non-eating whole grain counterparts.  All told, whole grains have impressive health benefits when regularly integrated in to our diets.

What are some examples of whole grains?  Quinoa, brown rice, millet, wheat, oats, rye, emmer, bulgur, spelt, teff, and faro.

And a few products made with whole grains?  Whole wheat pasta, whole wheat bread, popcorn (yes, popcorn), whole wheat flour, whole wheat pizza crust, and whole grain rolls.

Are there negatives associated with whole grains?  It’s not a negative per se, but it does take certain people a while to get used to a grainier texture and taste.  Once it happens, nonetheless, it’s doubtful anyone would want to go back.

How about storage?  Store whole grains in a cool, dry place, away from direct light (be sure the container is airtight).  Whole grain flour is best when refrigerated.

Whole grains?  They’re great; and that’s the truth!

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