Whole Grains: Why You Need This Superfood In Your Life

Whole grain picture

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.

Whole  grain picture
Credit: nutritionrx.ca

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

Studies have found that regular consumption of whole grains leads to reduction in chronic diseases like cardiovascular disease (CVD) and diabetes type II.

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

Phenolic compounds and insoluble fibre potentially contribute to lowering your risk of several types of cancer, mainly colon cancer.

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: 

Credits: Whole Grains Council

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!


Adapted from “Wholegrain Uncovered” by Dr. Norazlanshah Hazali, Food Safety and Therapy Consultant, Department of Nutrition Sciences, International Islamic University Malaysia.

3 thoughts on “Whole Grains: Why You Need This Superfood In Your Life”

  1. We have been wrongly mislead and brainwashed by grains industry on eating grains is healthy. The laughable USDA Food Pyramid Guide is arguable the biggest mistake in mankind when it comes to health and diet. Eating 7-11 servings of grains per day?

    Many people still think that we are eating the same biblical grains (wheat) what Jesus ate. Wheat has been hyberdized and genetised since about 50-60 years ago. There are long list of destructive affect on human health from medical literatures. Conventional dietitians and doctors are still living in ‘old school’ days, and gravely unaware of what has been happening globally around us.

    Since the recommendations of eating higher carbs and grains by USDA, obesity and diabetes have both skyrocket in every developed countries, in Malaysia. Most people don’t even know 2 pieces of whole grains bread, has higher glycemic index then few teaspoons of sugars. Conventional wisdom about health, diet and nutrition has mislead and misfed us all, making us sicker and fatter. Wheat, has been proven in so many medical journals, associated with more then 300 health symptoms, and the king of storing body fat and causing leaky gut, thus, the path to autoimmune disease, cancer and heart disease.

    Read ‘Grain Brain’ by Dr. David Perlmutter, ‘Wheat Belly’ by Dr. William Davis or watch the documentary ‘The Perfect Human Diet’, and listen the antropology facts explained by Professor Loren Cordain.

    1. Hi GENE!

      Thanks for your insight! Appreciate it. We do agree that GI plays an important role in nutrition and diet too instead of just number of servings. If you have the opportunity, what would you recommend to people when it comes to grains?

      Hear from you soon! 🙂

  2. Hi,

    More and more medical studies (on top of already tons of literatures) have shown that atrophy of the villi(inflammation and damage of the gut) and leaky gut are caused by gluten and grains containing gluten, such as barley, rye and wheat. Gluten, is just one of the many components in grains which is causing so much damage in the body. Not to mention anti-nutrients and highly toxic chemicals such as lectins, phytates, wheat germ agglutinin, gliadin, etc.

    If you look at the processed food products sold in supermarkets and even most organic shops, wheat, soy, corn and grains are the main ingredients. It is a multi billion dollars industry, and the lobbying experts will make no mistake about promoting to public that these foods are healthy and we need them. From anthropology (human evolution) point of view, we were never evolved to consume grains, legumes nor most of the foods most conventional dietitians and governement recommended. The reason why we could be here today, is because our primal ancestors are healthy enough to NOT consume these foods, to be reproductively healthy and diseased free. Grains were commercialized, after the huge mistake of agriculture, and we sow what we reap today. We are seeing more and more people suffering from reproductive and fertility issues, and almost all of us are wheat and grains addict.

    As for recommendation when it comes to grains, one MUST know that wheat and other similar toxic grains not only could cause massive problems to gut and immune system, but we have now learned that it may cause and damage every tissues in the body, including the brain. If one can’t get rid or wheat cravings, it is because the plant morphins in wheat is highly addictive, similar to sugars, which is so much more addictive then heroin and cocaine.

    Bear in mind, gluten, sugars, drugs, alcohol, nicotine, caffeine, all these are stimulants. You have to identify how many of these stimulants you are dependant on daily basis. Then, find out a smart protocol to tackle one stimulant addiction at a time, and eventually the goal is to remove as many (if not all) stimulants. Me too myself, was grains and wheat addict for years. The withdrawal symptoms could be unbearable for most people, if most people failed, due to poor strategy combined with poor determination and discipline.

    My in-a nutshell advise, if you have efficient metabolism and do not suffer from gut dsybiosis, and if your body can do well with digesting carbs, a small amount of non toxic gluten grains such as quinoa may be alright for some people. That is, in small servings, once in a while. Wheat or gluten containing grains is a big NO NO. Even oats products are often contaminated with gluten, due to logistics using same transportation vehicle and same factory machinery processing the crops.

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