A little heads up of this article: Always choose whole grains over refined grains! If you would like to get a little more information about the – WHY – then you’re very welcome to enjoy reading a little bit further.
Since whole grain is an essential part of the “Harvard Eating Plate”, (check out What We should Eat – Part 1: Fruits & Veggies for more) it is about time to do a little deep dive here.
That there are still way too less people among us eating whole grain products can easily be seen by the pasta variety in your local super market. Normally the ratio between whole grain pasta products and refined ones is about 1 : 15 at least. Go have a look yourself next time you go grocery shopping. Now, since it is common knowlegde that whole grain is way more healthy and nutritious than refined products, why is this ratio so out of balance? Obviously because no one buys it, besides us and hopefully you, dear reader 😉
But why? Here are some possible explanations that actually don’t make sense anymore for humans of the 21th century.
When the industrialization wave hit America in the late 1800s, a new way of milling and mass refining took hold in the grain business and never let go. Removing the bran and germ seemed like a good idea at the time, since it meant that grain products could sit on store shelves much longer without spoiling. But the worldwide epidemic of B-vitamin deficiencies (pellagra and beriberi) that followed was only the beginning. Frankly, we are only just realizing the nutritional fallout from almost eliminating whole grains from our diet over the past hundred years. Well, it’s time to change that!
Brown Food = Poop Food?
Maybe it’s what we’re associating with the color brown. The poop color. This is clearly a selfmade mental barrier which should be torn down.
Not eating brown food actually also goes in line with what we preach here on the blog: “Eat the Rainbow!” (If you’ve ever seen a brown raibow please leave a comment in the end of this article!) Jokes aside, just try to imagine that the ideal nutrition rainbow also contains the color brown.
The Price Tag
It is true that whole grain products are more expensive than refined ones. The most obvious factor is rooted in the basic economics. Companies that have the capability to produce food on a mass scale can keep costs down by buying ingredients in huge amounts (think gross tonnage of flour, not kilos). Add to this a highly mechanized process of production and there you get the 1,50€ per kilo refined grain pasta. Since our food economy is driven by consumer demands, we can also use this mechanism to get the price down for whole grain by obviously buying more of it and at the same time consuming less white wheat products. Sure, this doesn’t help much if you’re short on money right now but if you have the monetary capabilities to spend an extra Euro on it then do it. It is really well invested.
The Nutrition Benefits of Whole Grain
Whole grains offer a “complete package” of health benefits, unlike refined grains, which are stripped of valuable nutrients in the refining process.
These components have various effects on our bodies:
- Bran and fiber slow the breakdown of starch into glucose—thus maintaining a steady blood sugar rather than causing sharp spikes.
- Fiber helps lower cholesterol as well as move waste through the digestive tract.
- Fiber may also help prevent the formation of small blood clots that can trigger heart attacks or strokes.
- Phytochemicals and essential minerals such as magnesium, selenium and copper found in whole grains may protect against some cancers.
As researchers have begun to look more closely at carbohydrates and health, they are learning that the quality of the carbohydrates you eat is at least as important as the quantity. Most studies, including some from several different Harvard teams, show a connection between whole grains and better health.
- A report from the Iowa Women’s Health Study linked whole grain consumption with fewer deaths from inflammatory and infectious causes, excluding cardiac and cancer causes. Examples are rheumatoid arthritis, gout, asthma, ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease, and neurodegenerative diseases. Compared with women who rarely or never ate whole-grain foods, those who had at least two or more servings a day were 30% less likely to have died from an inflammation-related condition over a 17-year period.
- A meta-analysis combining results from studies conducted in the U.S., the United Kingdom, and Scandinavian countries (which included health information from over 786,000 individuals), found that people who ate 70 grams/day of whole grains—compared with those who ate little or no whole grains—had a 22% lower risk of total mortality, a 23% lower risk of cardiovascular disease mortality, and a 20% lower risk of cancer mortality.
Wow, you really made it until the end! We hope all these arguments above are convincing enough to help you on your health journey. Let’s eat more whole grain products on a daily basis and take advantage of its great health benefits.
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