Whole grains have been part of the human diet for thousands of years. Recently however, diets such as Paleo and Keto claim that eating grains is bad for your health. The difference is in what type of grains you eat. While incorporating a high amount of refined grains has been linked to obesity and inflammation, whole grains are associated with numerous health benefits, including lowering your risk for heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and blood pressure.
What Are Whole Grains?
Grains are the seeds of grass-like plants called cereals. The most common grains are derived from corn, wheat, and rice. Non-grass grains, also called pseudocereals are considered whole grains, which include amaranth, buckwheat, and quinoa.
Grains are considered, “whole” when they all three parts of the seed remain intact. When whole grains are stripped of certain components, they are referred to as refined grains. Whole grains are typically high in vitamins, minerals, and fiber. These three parts include the
- Bran – Nutritious hard outer-layer or shell which contains fiber, minerals, and antioxidants
- Endosperm – The middle layer of the grain which consists mainly of starchy carbs
- Germ – Nutrient rich embryo, packed with vitamins, minerals, protein, and plant compounds
Refined grains have had the germ and the bran removed, thus leaving only the high carb endosperm. Without the bran and the germ, refined grains lack valuable micronutrients, fiber, and inflammation fighting plant compounds. This is the reason why grains are so misinterpreted.
Whole grains include foods such as oats, whole wheat, rye, buckwheat, millet, whole barely, spelt, quinoa, brown rice, and corn.
Benefits Of Whole Grains
Fiber is perhaps the biggest and most well-established benefit of fiber. Diets that restrict whole grains, also restrict your fiber intake. Although fiber is technically classified as a carbohydrate, fiber is digested differently than refined and simple carbohydrates. Fiber is not absorbed and passes directly through your gastrointestinal tract. Since fiber is not absorbed, that also means, it has no substantial effect on blood sugar. Fiber is associated with numerous health benefits, improving reducing your risk for heart disease, improving digestion, and aiding in weight loss.
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2. Reduces The Risk Of Heart Disease
Several studies have shown that including fiber rich foods in your diet, can dramatically reducing your chances for heart disease. In fact, a Harvard study, that included over 40,000 male health professionals, researchers found that high total dietary intake was correlated with a 40% lower risk of developing coronary heart disease [R].
3. Improves Digestive And Gut Health
With such robust fiber content, whole grains also significantly benefit digestive and gut health. Soluble fiber acts as a prebiotic and passes through the digestive tract to the colon, where they feed beneficial gut bacteria in your gut microbiome. Whole grains also support digestion, as fiber helps improve bowel movements and improves regularity.
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4. Support Weight Loss
Studies show that the slow digestion process of soluble fibers, helps alleviate hunger, and improves feelings of fullness. Putting your body in a caloric deficit, is vital to achieve weight loss.
In fact, a systematic review of 15 studies, which included 120,000 patients, showed that eating 3 servings of whole grains daily was linked to lower body mass index (BMI) and less abdominal fat [R].
5. Nutrient Dense
Whole grains are dense in vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and powerful plant compounds. Quinoa, a seedless whole grain, is packed with protein and healthy omega-3 fats. Omega-3 essentially fatty acids, antioxidants as well as powerful phytonutrients help reduce inflammation, and free radical damage improving overall health and wellness, while slowing the aging process.
What Are Whole Grains: Takeaway
Although some diets may help you lose weight by eliminating certain foods or food groups, whole grains are one specific type of food you should consider keeping around. Whole grains are essentially for good digestive health, heart health, and can help you increase satiety and reduce body fat. Living a healthy and well balanced life, requires eating healthy fats, lean proteins, and quality carbohydrates, which includes whole grains.
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