Why Some Whole Grains are More “Whole” Than Others

Post 53 Whole GrainsIn my most recent blog post, I wrote about grains, so I figured I was on a roll and why not continue the theme in todays’ post! Did you know that most of the grain products eaten in the U.S. today are of the refined variety? When I say refined, I mean stuff like white flour or white rice that have been stripped of their fiber and micronutrients. What’s left after all that stripping is calorie-laden, nutrient-poor food or what I like to call “garbage food”. And garbage food does nothing to build your health. I always say: eat junk, become junk!

Now the story about whole grains is way better because they still have all of their nutritional goodness intact. Studies have shown that eating three servings (about 3 ounces) of whole grains daily is associated with a 17% decrease in the risk of colorectal cancers. How’s that for good news? Refined grains, on the other hand, not so good. Studies have shown that consumption of refined grains is linked with higher rates of breast cancer and colon cancer. Yikes!

The best way to eat your grains is with the grain remaining intact. Some examples of intact grains are brown and wild rice, wheat berries, quinoa, and steel cut oats. The best and healthiest way to cook your grains is in water as opposed to dry cooking. This prevents the formation of acrylamide, a potentially toxic compound formed when grains are cooked dry. Enjoy whole grains for breakfast with fruit and chia seeds or how about for dinner with tomato sauce and onions? Yum!

Now, not to burst your bubble here, but consuming too many whole grains can make your diet less than optimal. Here’s some reasons why:

  1. If you eat too many grains, you may not be leaving enough room on your plate for beans and green and yellow vegetables, which contain the most health-building phytonutrients.
  2. Much of the brown rice you buy can be contaminated with arsenic which can end up on your plate. CLICK HERE to read about this.
  3. When whole grain products like breads, cereals, and crackers are dry cooked they can be browned which forms forms a toxin called acrylamide and is potentially harmful. Consuming high amounts of acrylamide is associated with several cancers.
  4. Whole grain pastry flour can be problematic because it is ground so fine which raises its glycemic load (GL) and several studies have linked high GL foods to increased risk of colorectal cancers.

There is no doubt that intact whole grains are healthful natural foods containing beneficial phytonutrients. But just don’t go overboard. Avoid refined grains and try to eat your whole grains intact and cooked in water. Here’s another tip: watch out for food labels! When you look at the front of a package it may say something like, “Whole Grain Goodness in Every Bite”. That can be very misleading because it implies that you are getting a whole grain product. Make sure to read the ingredients! Every grain listed on the label  MUST be a whole grain. If not, the product is not actually whole grain at all! For instance, look for “whole wheat” vs. “wheat flour”. To your good health!

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