Why are Whole Grains Preferred Over Refined Ones?

Man Eating Biscut
Maintain a healthier lifestyle by being vigilant as to what are processed foods and what is not.

With a prevalence of obesity in this country, where complications of diabetes and other health ailments occur as a result, people look for ways to control their dietary habits. People are more inclined to now focus on dietary items that are raw and less refined. Among these natural healthy food options, whole grain top the list in terms of popularity. However, many experts suggest that there is still a long way to go.

A worrying statistic indicates that nearly 60% of calorie consumption is from ultra-processed food; that is, extra ingredients that are placed into the food in order to make it taste better and sometimes “to disguise undesirable qualities of the final product,” as per a study by Carlos Augusto Monteiro, a professor in the Department of Nutrition, School of Public Health at the University of São Paulo in Brazil.  These foods contain high amounts of sugars, saturated fat and sodium, which can present such medical dangers as obesity, heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. 

Health risks of refined grain

Wheat Grain in a FieldMany of us have become overly reliant on ready-made food items, such as products that are processed with refined wheat, rice and barley. Flour, for example, is crushed into fine powders, which then form the basis for many types of bread and a large variety of processed foods, from cereals, crackers and pizza dough to cookies and cakes.

Apart from having less nutritional value, refined grains also pose significant health risks to the people consuming them on a daily basis.

Following is a list of just some of the health hazards that can be acquired when eating refined products.

Accumulation of abdominal fat leading to heart problems

Refined grain, as the main source of getting nutritional values in your diet, accumulates layers of adipose tissues (fat) around your organs. It results into inflated waste along with complications of heart health.

Development of atherosclerosis

Atherosclerosis is the condition in which artery walls get thickened. Thick arteries can result into hypertension and in worse conditions culminates into heart attacks. It has been found out that consumption of refined grains for a long time can lead to this ailment. 

Diabetic conditions

Due to its lack of fiber, minerals and other micronutrients, refined grains can make the human body more vulnerable in acquiring diabetes, especially in people with a genetic history of the disease.

How Do We Know Which Foods are Ultra-Processed?

Boxes_of_cereal_in_a_supermarket
The decision to buy non-processed foods can be confusing if you don’t know what to look for
Whole Grain Stamp
Foods with the whole grain stamp label on its packaging indicate that the bran, germ and endosperm are still present in the grain.

Read the label. If it says the food contains artificial flavors, colors and preservatives, there is not much doubt they are processed with ingredients that can be harmful to your health.

Conversely, foods that still contain the bran, germ and endosperm, and subsequently, the nutrients that accompany them will have a label on its packaging indicating that the food within contains whole grains.

Those foods that have been processed organically will have a clear label indicating this.

What are whole grains?

Simply put, whole grains are natural grains present in their untreated form. They are edible plant seeds usually known as the term ‘kernel’. The grain kernel consists of three distinctive edible parts that are enclosed in a shell, a natural protection for grains from excessive sunlight, insects and crop diseases.  Let’s break down the three individual parts of whole grains to understand the nutrients within them.

Bran

Bran is the outermost layer of kernel consisting of many layers.
Nutritional Benefit: It is full of fibers, vitamins B and vital antioxidants.

Germ

Germ is the nucleus of the kernel and acts as the plant’s embryo.  Nutritional Benefit: Germ of the whole grain is loaded with proteins, healthy fats and micronutrients in the form of minerals and vitamins.

Endosperm

Endosperm is the area of kernel surrounding the germ. It provides the plant’s energy through its abundance of nutrients.
Nutritional Benefit: Endosperm contains almost all of the carbohydrates of the kernel, with a portion of proteins and some micronutrients.

Whole grain is more nutritious because the germ and bran, which is part of the kernel are not destroyed and excluded in the process refinement. To get yourself more acquainted with the usefulness of whole grains, the following are some of its advantages:

Improved digestion

We all know that how much of our adult population is bugged with digestive issues. The rich fiber content present in whole grains improves the bowel movement which means you don’t have to rely on laxatives. The presence of lactic acid in whole grains helps the growth of good bacteria in the large intestine. Presence of good bacteria in the intestine helps in rapid nutrient absorptions and strengthened immune system.

Instills the feeling of satiation

Whole grains are famous to keep your appetite low with their satiating effect. It takes longer for the digestive system to digest whole grains which means your brain will not signal you for untimely eating. This innate quality of whole grain can help people who are striving to lose weight.  

Blood sugar regulator

Whole grain helps in controlling the spiked up levels of blood sugar. With its low glycemic index as compared to refined grains, less glucose is absorbed into the bloodstream, helping in maintaining the blood glucose levels.

Whole grains are also proved to be beneficial in reducing the inflammation within in the body. Medical sciences tell us that inflammation is the root cause of many chronic diseases. Antioxidants present in whole grains can also reduce the risk of different types of cancers. In general, increasing the quantity of whole grain in our daily diet can ensure a healthy lifestyle.

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