By Elena Sheppard
You’re probably not eating what you think you’re eating.
Here’s a wild statistic: The FDA defines whole grain “as food that contains 51 percent or more whole grain ingredient(s).” And even that 51% can be “reconstituted” — meaning it’s made up of pieces of wheat kernels from various farms being blended together – definitely not a whole grain.
The Western diet is packed with grains. While many of the grains we eat are refined, research proves that whole grains are really what we should be consuming. Unfortunately finding purely whole grain products is more difficult than one might assume. With the FDA statistic in mind, the best way to know the food you’re buying is whole grain, is to look for labels that say, “100% stoneground whole grain” or “100% stoneground wheat” or “100% stoneground whole wheat.”
That said, understanding why making the switch to whole grains is important requires a look at what exactly refined grains really are.
What are refined grains?
Grains, (refined grains,) are a pretty traditional staple of the American breakfast. Refined grains are in our morning toast, our cereal and oatmeal, in addition to rice, pasta and foods we usually indulge in during non-breakfast moments of the day. While grains, generally speaking, are good for us and loaded with complex carbohydrates, making the switch to whole grains is important if we want to be getting all the nutrients we can and enjoying the most delicious flavors.
Refined grains are grains that have been milled, which is a process that removes their bran and germ and simultaneously lengthens their shelf life. Unfortunately, the milling process also rids the grains of many nutrients — including protein, fiber, and many other micronutrients.
When it comes to breakfast foods the switch from refined grains to whole grains is pretty easy to do. Swap your white toast for whole-grain bread, your regular cereal for 100% stone ground cereal, or your normal old pancakes to whole-grain buckwheat pancakes. The health benefits are hard to ignore.
Why are whole grains better for us?
The main reason: they’re loaded with more nutrients. In addition to having more fiber, whole wheat also has more magnesium, potassium, and selenium (which has antioxidant properties). More reasons why whole grains are good for you?
- They’re digested slowly, which means they help regulate insulin and blood sugar levels.
- They help prevent against Type 2 Diabetes.
- They lower cholesterol levels
- Whole grains also help prevent heart disease.
- And they reduce risks of stroke, cancer, in addition to reducing blood pressure.
Of course, eating whole grains alone is not enough to turn an unhealthy diet into a healthy one. The truth is though, it’s all about making healthy choices. And making a choice as simple as switching your refined grains to whole grains is a pretty painless way to look after your health. Who wouldn’t want to start every morning by taking their health into their own hands?