Fruits and vegetables have long been the stars of center stage in the plant world, as rich sources of phytochemicals and antioxidants. However, the next breakout star waiting in the wings is their understudy, whole grains. We all know that whole grains are a rich source of fiber. But did you know that these babies are also packed with some of the most powerful phytochemicals and antioxidants on the planet? In fact, many studies have shown that the increased consumption of whole-grains and whole-grain products has been associated with reduced risk of developing chronic diseases including: cardiovascular diseases, type 2 diabetes, and some cancers. Here are four health-boosters in whole grains and how they can benefit you.
Lignans. These cancer-preventive compounds are converted in the human digestive tract to enterolignans and studies have indicated that these enterolignans may have the ability to block the effects of estrogen in the body. British researchers reported a 15% reduction in the risk of breast cancer in post-menopausal women with high lignan consumption. Corn, oats, wheat and rye are good sources of lignans.
Phytosterols. Concerned about high cholesterol? Phytosterols—also known as plants sterols—are the plant version of cholesterol. When you consume phytosterols, they bind to the same sites on intestinal cells that cholesterol would bind to in order to be absorbed—blocking the absorption of cholesterol from food. And researchers in Scandinavia found that whole grain oats were the most effective for lowering total cholesterol.
Beta-glucan. Barley and oats are good sources of beta-glucan—a multi-chain glucose molecule—that has been shown to help control blood sugar. Diabetes Care journal reports a significant decrease in peak insulin response after the consumption of beta-glucan rich foods.
Phytic Acid. Phytic acid tends to get a bad rap, since it binds to minerals, such as iron and zinc— somewhat limiting their intestinal bioavailability. However, according to researchers at the Pillsbury Company, it has been shown to be a serious colon cancer deterrent—due to its anti-oxidative, protective actions in the gut. You can get the health-enhancing benefits of phytic acid from all grains.
When purchasing grains, always make sure that you are truly getting a whole grain product. Tip: Check the ingredients. If all of the grains listed do not have the word “whole” in front of them, then it is not a whole grain product.
To your good health!