Grains are an essential part of our regular diet. They are also referred to as Cereals and are the richest source of carbohydrates in the diet and provide heart-healthy unsaturated fats, B-complex vitamins, minerals, fibre and an array of phytochemicals that varies by plant. Our daily needs of carbohydrates once received through these grains provide us:
- With energy for the brain from glucose.
- Fuel storage in the form of glycogen.
- Food sources of phytonutrients, which are plant-based chemicals that support health.
The grains contain 3 major parts of the plant:
- Bran (outer fibrous layer): Source of fibre, Provides B-Vitamins and minerals like iron.
- Germ (core of the grain): Contains Polyunsaturated fats, vitamin –E, and minerals.
- Endosperm (interior layer): Starchy layer that provides energy.
The grains are of two varieties: Whole Grains and Refined Grains.
The whole grains contain all the three major parts of the grain and provide us with complex carbohydrates and are regarded as more nutrient-dense. A few studies show beneficial results on the Microbiome, a function of their prebiotic fibres and resistant starches that feed good bacteria. The fibre present in it helps to get easy satiety, balanced Cholesterol, and regulation of bowel movements.
A few examples of whole grains include Red rice, Brown rice, whole wheat, millets, whole wheat bread, barley, whole corn, quinoa etc. which contains all the three major parts of the grain that provide healthy nutrients and also provides important fuel to sustain friendly bacteria in the gut.
The refined grains get processed, leaving only the starch-rich endosperm lacking in nutrients and provides us with simple carbohydrates. These grains lack nutrients such as Vitamin-B, E, K and Folate; minerals such as Magnesium, Potassium, Selenium, Fibre etc. Refined grains have a higher glycemic index compared to whole grains.
Examples of refined grains: White rice, Maida (Refined wheat flour), Cornflour, Whitebread etc.
How to ensure the healthier option:
- Look at the ingredient list and check whether the whole grain is mentioned.
- Multigrain present on the ingredient list mentions more than the one-grain present. It can be refined grains also. Added bran or oilseeds make it healthier than compared to the food product containing refined grains alone.
- Several protein bars/granola bars /digestive biscuits are available in the market. They might contain whole grains /fibre but are loaded with added sugars, sodium and calories and also a major portion of refined grain in it.
- All foods with whole grains will not be healthy and follow the above tips before making a choice.
If the quantity of the grain exceeds the limits, it can lead to weight gain, insulin resistance, heart diseases, and increased inflammation and decreased immune function. Balance the diet with vegetables, Dals and whole grams, egg/lean fish/chicken dairy products etc. to add on the benefits. The quantity of the meal matters whether it is good or bad.