Everyone keeps talking about how whole grains, whole wheat, whole this, and whole that is good for you, but what do these terms mean? And why are they good for you? How exactly are whole grains better than the smooth, refined grains (read: white rice, white flour, etc) that we love?
While white rice tastes fantastic with kari ayam, unpolished brown rice has five times more dietary fibre and eight times more vitamin E. Brown rice also trumps white rice with 2.5 times higher folate. The same can be said about many other unrefined, whole grains which hasn’t gone through heavy processing.
The highly impressive artwork below depicts a whole grain in its entirety. A whole grain is made up of the endosperm, bran, and germ. Your white rice at home is only the endosperm part of the grain, as the bran and germ has been removed through processing. Processed grains are smoother, more polished looking and has longer shelf life, which makes it a more appealing grain to retailers, but not a great grain for your body.
Processed Grains Mean Less Nutrients
Unfortunately, although it has a fancier name and a finer texture, the endosperm is mostly carbs and protein. Most of the key nutrients like fibre, minerals, and vitamins are stored in the bran and germ. The nutrient-packed bran and germ are removed during the processing of the grains, along with its health benefits. So when you chow down on a large bowl of white rice, you’re actually just consuming a whole load of simple carbs.
5 Solid Reasons Whole Grains are Healthier
1. Regular whole grain consumption helps prevent disease
2. Consuming whole grains help lower cholesterol
Whole grains are rich with resistant starch, oligosaccharides and lignin, which helps lower cholesterol, and maintain healthy blood glucose and insulin levels.
3. Whole grains makes you feel fuller for longer
This makes whole grains a great weight management superfood. Because it is coarse, it also digests slower, and helps improve insulin sensitivity.
4. Whole grains are packed with nutrients
As mentioned earlier, refined grains removes all the nutrient-rich part of the grain such as protein, magnesium, and potassium. These nutrients could reduce blood pressure, and in turn your risk of contracting cardiovascular diseases.
5. Whole grains have higher content of phenolic compounds and insoluble fibre
Is it Whole Grain or Not? Read the Label
Since whole grains have become the superstars of the grain kingdom, many food companies are jumping on the grainwagon by taking advantage of the words “whole” and “grain”. Misleading labels have popped up claiming in one way or another to be associated to being whole grain.
You have to keep an eye out for sneaky marketing terms like ‘8-grain’ and ‘multigrain’, as they do not necessarily mean the product contains whole grains. They just mean it contains more than one type of grain. Labels like “wheat bran/germ”, “brown bread”, “100% wheat” are all non-wholegrain products. Do not be fooled.
Always read the ingredients list to see if whole grain is listed as an ingredient (ie: wholewheat flour, whole oats etc). And remember that ingredients are listed according to percentage used. Get those with whole grains listed as first or second item on the list.
This handy chart should help you differentiate between whole grains and impostors:
Whole Grains and Your Meals
It’s pretty easy to incorporate whole grains into your diet. Just substitute like for like. Unpolished brown rice in the place of refined white rice. Wholegrain pasta instead of regular pasta. Wholemeal flour when cooking or baking. You’ll be glad to know that popcorn is also a whole grain! Just skip the sugar and oil-laden ones at the cinema and air-pop your own!
Incorporating whole grains into your life doesn’t have to be a sacrifice. Whole grains add depth to the flavour and nutrients to your meal. Be creative and find recipes which can unlock the potential of whole grains, and soon you’ll have everyone clamouring over your cooking!
What’s your favourite whole grain and how do you like it prepared? Let us know in the comments below or on our Facebook page!