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Grains (or cereal grains) are tiny, hard and edible dry seeds that grow on grass-like plants known as cereals. Cereal grains are the largest source of food energy for most populations around the world. Today, the highest produced and most consumed grains are wheat, rice, and corn.
Grains have been equally celebrated and shunned in the health sphere in recent years. Grains, including whole grains, are often scorned during social gatherings, in the news, and on the internet.
Some experts claim that we weren’t created to eat grains. The grain-opposers’ assertion being we have consumed them for only 10,000 years. On the contrary, proponents argue that grains have a myriad of health benefits and are the foundation of our food supply. Since they’ve been around for thousands of years.
Low-carb enthusiasts contend that whole grains can be bad for your health and un-natural. What’s more, passionate paleo and keto “dieticians” discourage their followers from eating grains. Devotees of these diets assert that grains are bad for our waistline and contribute heart disease and diabetes.
So, Let’s Explore the Truth
In the U.S., authorities in the health department recommend that men eat 6-7 servings of grain daily, and women eat 5-6.
Not All Grains Are Created Equal
When ground into flours, most of the grains we know act like sugar inside our bodies. They initiate blood-sugar imbalances, inflammation and stimulate weight gain. Contrary, whole grains provide essential nutrients that are attached to positive health outcomes and form part of our healthy diet.
According to Mayo Clinic, whole grains can help protect against cardiovascular disease, lower weight and reduce the incidence of diabetes.
Whole Grains versus Refined Grains
Whereas refined grains are empty calories, the same cannot be said for whole grains. Whole grains are often high in many nutrients such as fiber, phosphorus, B vitamins, selenium and iron.
For instance, grains like whole wheat and oats are nutrient-dense, while corn and rice are scanty of nutrients even in their whole forms. Note that, refined foods are often enriched with nutrients like folate and iron which replace some of the nutrients lost during processing.
A whole grain contains the germ and bran of the grain, which are the source of fiber and essential nutrients. Refined grains on the other hand, often, have the germ and bran removed, leaving only the high-carb endosperm.
Some grains such as oats are often eaten whole, while others are refined before consumption. Refined grains have nothing left except the high-calorie, high–carb endosperm which is rich in starch and almost zero proteins. Wheat is an excellent example of a grain that’s widely consumed, yet usually pulverized into a fine flour.
Since the fiber has been removed from the grain, and probably ground into flour, they are easily accessible to the body’s digestive enzymes.
Therefore, when refined, carbohydrate-filled foods are consumed, they are broken down fast, leading to a spike in blood sugar level that drops down soon after.
When the sugar level in the blood goes down, you will feel hungry, get cravings and overeat. And this can cause metabolic diseases, an increase in weight and obesity.
Health Benefits of Whole Grains
By eating whole grains, you lower your risk of becoming obese. According to NCBI, consumption of a mixture of whole grains, bran and fiber, reduces the risk in type 2 diabetes and obesity.
Whole grains tend to possess a lot of fibers and vital nutrients. Also, your body metabolizes them differently; compared to refined grains. Numerous studies associate whole grains to all kinds of health benefits.
Studies from Harvard showed that people who consumed whole grains were 9% less likely to die during the period of study. They pointed, specifically, to a 15 % reduction in death from heart disease.
A study on whole grains, showed it reduced the risk of heart disease by up to 30%. Several trials on whole grain foods and diets show that there is increasing proof that they can have a healthy effect on risk factors for coronary heart diseases.
If you don’t like grains, avoid them. If you savor them, well, there isn’t any good reason to avoid them—provided that you eat whole grains. All in all, grains will prove to be good for some and not others.