In recent years, beginning with the publication of Dr. William Davis’s book Wheat Belly, grains have gotten a pretty bad rap. They have been blamed for everything from weight gain to digestive issues, to chronic diseases, and it’s left many people confused over whether or not to include them in their diet.
While those with gluten intolerance, sensitivity or Celiac disease are wise to stay away from whole grains, this group actually only makes up about 5% of the population. In general, the majority of us are not only able to eat whole grains, but actually can greatly benefit from them.
When we talk about whole grains here, we are distinguishing from the processed grain found in unhealthy foods like store bought cakes, crackers, and white bread.
In bleached white flour for example, 40% of the wheat grain is removed, and that removal includes the brand and germ of the wheat, which are the most nutritious parts.
To reap the benefits of wheat, you need to consume whole grain products, i.e. those with 100% of the wheat grain. This provides you with the full health benefits, including vitamin B1, B2, B3, E, folic acid, calcium, phosphorus, zinc, copper, iron, and fiber.
Whole grains are typically staples of vegan, vegetarian, Macrobiotic, and the Mediterranean diet- all of which are considered to be very healthy when managed properly.
If you’re ready to enrich your diet with whole grains, begin converting your processed wheat products to healthier whole grain alternatives. Whole grain breads and pastas are widely available, or simply eat grains in their whole form, such as rice, buckwheat and oats.
So how exactly do we benefit from eating whole grains? Going through everything is beyond the scope of this article, but we want to highlight some of the top benefits.
- They help with digestions
Not only are whole grains full of fiber, which is great for digestion, but they also contain lactic acid, which promotes “good bacteria” (i.e. the kind you get from probiotics) in the large intestine.
- They can help reduce belly fat
Belly fat is recognized as the more dangerous kind of fat and is linked to an increase risk of diabetes. Studies have shown that consuming grains helps to properly distribute fat in your body, lowering belly fat.
- They are full of vitamins and minerals
Whole grains are serious nutritional powerhouses, containing B vitamins and an array of minerals including iron, selenium, zinc, and magnesium.
- They help to lower cholesterol
Whole grains help to prevent your body from absorbing “bad” cholesterol and help to lower triglycerides, and studies have shown that whole grains help to lower heart disease overall.
Bottom line? Keep an open mind to the benefits that whole grains can offer, but ultimately only you can know what is truly right for you and your body. Maybe you are part of the population that does best by removing them from their diet, but don’t automatically discount them! For those of us without sensitivities they are truly nutritional powerhouses!