Whole Grain For A Healthy Diet
We all know the ‘whole’ is
equal to the sum of its various parts.
So why not eat food that has had none of its best bits taken away?
Today, we shovel “refined”
grain, sugar and flour into our systems, fed by manufacturers’ theories
that “pure” is better — when, actually,
the “refining” process sometimes actually removes the nutritious essence and
gives us what’s left over.
Take a whole grain of
wheat: it comprises an outer layer (the bran, rich in fibre); a middle
endosperm (the starchy part); and the ‘germ’, or embryo, which is the
beneficial inner part. When grains are milled (or “refined”), the bran and germ
are removed, leaving behind the starchy endosperm.
The “refining” process
results in the loss of many vitamins, minerals and bioactive substances (called
phytochemicals) found within or close to the germ or bran layers. When white
flour is made, 66% of the dietary fibre, 92% of the selenium, 62% of the folate
and up to 99.8% of the phytochemicals are lost.
Yes, some manufacturers add
certain vitamins that are lost in refining, like folate, thiamine and Vitamin
E, claiming that their products are “enriched”. But why eat processed food with
added supplements when the “original” has all the goodness as provided by
“Because it’s more
expensive,” you reply. Public Health dietician Kate Sladden at Auckland
District Health Board agrees. “Often, wholemeal and wholegrain foods are more expensive,” she
says, “but remember: two of the cheapest breakfast cereals are Weet-Bix and
porridge — both of these are wholegrain foods. Also, wholegrain foods are more
filling, leaving you feeling satisfied on a smaller quantity.”
Over the years, our palates
have got used to the smooth feel of refined food, as opposed to the textured
flavour of the heavier, wholemeal products. So we don’t have to change our diet
completely — just incorporate some wholefoods in our meals and we’re well on
the way to healthier eating.
Dr Robert Buist, in The
Cholesterol Myth, writes, “The whole grains, when eaten, give rise to what is
called a low glycaemic response.” This is useful for people with diabetes, as
these foods will not cause a rapid rise in blood sugar. “White flour products,
on the other hand, lead to a much more rapid increase in blood sugar… In the
whole form there is a slow release of the complex carbohydrates because each of
the grains is highly encapsulated. So the presence of fibre in the diet is
multifunctional. It helps to secure good bowel movements, it also helps to
absorb a certain amount of dietary cholesterol and prevent its reabsorption
into the body, and it helps to control blood sugar levels.”
Note: The dietary
information given in this article is general. A balanced diet is recommended.
If you have any special dietary requirements, talk to your doctor or dietician.