Wholesome whole grains

Whole grain has become a trending term in diet circles

Whole wheat pasta, legumes, nuts, seeds, cereals, grains and wheat sheaths are high in omega 3, antioxidants and vitamins.

All of us have heard of ‘whole grains’. Many of us have also adopted whole grains in our diet. Let us now understand the true meaning of this term and the benefits whole grains have to offer in our daily diets.

What is whole grain?

Whole grains or foods made from them contain all the three essential components (carbohydrates, proteins, vitamins and antioxidants). Some examples of whole grain and whole grain foods include whole wheat, whole wheat flour, daliya (broken wheat), whole grain corn, cornmeal, Whole oats, oatmeal, brown rice, whole barley; millets like whole jowar, bajra (pearl millet), ragi etc. Some pseudo-cereals like amaranth (rajgira) and quinoa are also considered as whole grain.

Once the bran and germ of these grains are removed, the grain is said to be refined. Refined grains are devoid of essential vitamins, minerals and fibre. Some examples of refined grain products are maida and white rice.

Health benefits

Evidence suggests that eating whole grain as part of a well-balanced diet can have a protective effect against lifestyle diseases such as type-2 diabetes, cardiovascular ailments and obesity. Since many of the lifestyle diseases are inflammatory in nature, increased consumption of whole grains can lead to alterations of the gut microbiota which can improve systemic inflammation. Whole grain foods help impart digestive health. For example, the soluble fibre in whole grain oats ferments in the colon and helps keep the colon healthy.

How much of it do we need?

To help promote good health, strive to meet the following recommendations:

  • Whole grains: USDA guidelines recommend making “half of all grains eaten as whole grains”.
  • Fibre: The daily recommendation is 40g/2,000 kcals according to the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), 2010

Dietary suggestions

Carbohydrates from whole grains, fruits and vegetables, should give you the bulk of your calories. For optimal health, get your grains intact from foods such as whole wheat flour or bread (brown bread need not necessarily be whole grain), whole grain cereals, brown rice, whole-grain pasta, millets, whole oats/barley and so on. Here are some suggestions to add more whole grains to your diet:

  • Start the day with whole grains. Choose an easy-to-prepare cereal that is made with whole grain for breakfast. Look for one that lists whole wheat, oats, barley, or other grain first on the ingredient list.
  • Use whole grains or whole-grain flour. Check the label to make sure that whole wheat or other whole grains is the first ingredient listed. Choose whole grain flour for rotis/parathas, whole grain bread, pasta, noodles, tortillas, pita pockets and pizza base. Do not sift the whole grain flour as this can eliminate the invaluable bran. Pour some dry, bite-size cereals, muesli, popcorn into a bag, or grab a whole grain cereal bar to take along with you for a snack during your busy day.
  • Mix with potatoes in cutlets, frankies, patties, samosas, aloo parathas. You can even try mixing brown rice, broken wheat or millets like jowar/ragi.
  • Substitute in standard recipes. In cakes, cookies, sweets and desserts substitute whole grain flour for one-fourth to one-half of maida called for in recipes.

(The author is head of Nutrition & Scientific Affairs, Kellogg India Private Limited)

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Wholesome whole grains

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