Beginning from the time of hunter-gatherers to the present conscious foodies, whole grains have the right to return to the heart of our food. Even though grains, in the last decades, have been stained by a negative reputation in the world of diet, they are still an essential ingredient in many communities worldwide. Buckwheat, whole wheat, pearl millet, finger millet, sorghum, and more are among the most commonly used whole grains that offer diverse amounts of nutrients.
Nowadays, the grains we eat undergo several layers of processing before they reach us. The initial motive for processing grains was to improve their shelf-life and digestibility. However, the process strips them of their nutrient-rich outer layers. They also make the grains high in carbohydrates but low in essential elements.
What does grain provide to our table?
The nutritional profile of grains reveals an array of vital nutrients. Anushree Sharma, a dietitian from Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh, states that grains are an essential energy source. “Carbohydrates and fibre form a significant part of their content, accompanied by a dose of protein,” she says.
Grains are a great source of micronutrients such as magnesium and the mineral phosphorus. Sharma emphasizes that whole grain is a great food source for vitamin B complex, mainly stored in bran, an outer coating of the grains. The nutrients in refined grains are deficient because of processing and the elimination of the precious outer layer of grains.
Madhu Kiran Kota is a nutritionist from Hyderabad. She dispels some skepticism regarding the connection between the consumption of whole grains and weight increase. She warns us that people who do not eat grains when trying to lose weight and slim down could be exposed to deficiencies in vitamin B.
The most effective weight loss strategies include eating protein-rich meals and avoiding complex carbs. Although proteins are necessary to build muscle weight, Sharma advises us to take in adequate quantities of whole grains because they are essential for meeting the body’s energy needs.
Why should you choose the whole grain?
Sharma describes the anatomy of grain seed to demonstrate the differences between refined grains and whole grains. A grain seed consists of three parts: the bran layer on the outside, the middle endosperm, and the inside germ.
The brand visible on the outside of full-grain unprocessed seeds is high in fiber and vitamin B. The germ inside houses vitamins B and E and healthy fats. But refined grains lack their bran and germ components that are the storehouses for nutrients.
Kota says that the endosperm, as well as grain germ in whole grains, contain an assortment of phytonutrients, antioxidants, and essential minerals such as trace elements and zinc and improve the nutritional content of these grains.
Cardiovascular diseases: A study from 2022 that was published in BMC Medicine followed 74,244 women from the Nurses’ Health Study since 1986, and as many as 91,430 women in the Nurses’ Health Study II since 1991, and 39455 males who were part of the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study since 1984. It concluded that greater use of whole-grain products was linked to a lower risk of cardiovascular disease.
Diabetes Removing refined grains in favor of whole grains and consuming at least two portions of whole grains every day may aid in reducing the chance of developing type 2 diabetes. A study from 2020 that was published in the British Medical Journal states that the consumption of more total whole grains, as well as several frequently consumed entire grain foods, was strongly associated with less risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
Whole grain, as well as the fear of gluten Gluten scare
Gluten, a protein compound found in grains such as barley, wheat, and rye, has been dubbed an underlying cause of weight growth. But, experts believe this is not true. This could be due to an array of things, such as the depiction that gluten-free eating is a fast way to shed weight.
If you don’t have any medical issues, abstaining from gluten is not a way to lose weight. “Rather, it’s the mindful balance of nutrients and portion control that plays a pivotal role,” Anushree Sharma.
Undoubtedly, people with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity need to be careful when deciding which grains to eat.
According to nutritionists, even though gluten is now considered a bad word in the world of diet, it is essential to distinguish between a legitimate medical need to avoid it and the erroneous belief that it is a cause of weight gain.
Madhu Kiran Kota clarifies that celiac patients suffer from a weak immune response whenever they take in gluten. This can cause extreme digestive distress and longer-term health issues.
Similarly, those suffering from gluten sensitivity might have uncomfortable reactions when eating gluten-free foods even though they don’t have the autoimmune response in celiac disease.
“In both cases, steering clear of wheat and other gluten-containing grains is important for maintaining the well-being [of such people],” she says.