Whole grains are unrefined grains in their whole form or ground into flour while retaining all parts of the seed.
Refined grains are milled to have the germ and bran removed. While this gives a more refined texture and an extended shelf life, many nutrients have been stripped off.
Bran, germ, endosperm
There are three parts to whole grain: the bran, germ, and endosperm. Each of these parts contains healthy nutrients.
- The bran is the nutritious outer layer rich in fibre and supplies vitamin B, iron, copper, zinc, and magnesium.
- The germ is the core of the seed where growth occurs, much like the embryo in humans. This portion of the grain is rich in healthy fats, vitamin E and vitamin B.
- The bran and germ also contain antioxidants and phytochemicals, a natural chemical compound in plants that have been researched for their role in disease prevention.
- The endosperm is the interior layer that is the food supply for the germ. It contains carbohydrates, protein, and small amounts of some B vitamins and minerals.
Whole grains can be rolled, crushed, or cracked. As long as all three parts (bran, germ, endosperm) are in their original proportion, they are still considered whole grains. Even products such as pasta, bread and cereal made from whole grains can be considered whole-grain food.
Benefits of whole grains
Whole grains provide many essential nutrients while at the same time helping in preventing disease. Here are some significant health benefits of a diet rich in whole grains:
- Lower your risk of heart disease, which is the leading cause of death worldwide.
- Reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, obesity, and certain types of cancer.
- Improve your bowel health by maintaining a regular bowel movement and promoting the growth of healthy bacteria in the colon.
How exactly do whole grains work?
Whole grains provide essential vitamins and minerals. In addition, fibre in whole grains helps to lower cholesterol and prevents the formation of small blood clots that can trigger heart attacks or strokes. Fibre is also a key nutrient that aids in digestion and bowel movements.
Bran also helps in the control of diabetes. Blood sugar levels are regulated by slowing the breakdown of starch into glucose, thus maintaining a steady blood sugar level rather than causing sharp spikes.
Phytochemicals and essential minerals such as magnesium, selenium and copper found in whole grains may offer some protection against certain cancers.
Make an appointment at Gleneagles Hospitals
Eating healthy is a choice that we all have. Contact the team of dietitians at your nearest Gleneagles Hospital if you have further questions about how to include whole grains into your diet and to get professional nutrition and dietary advice in your journey towards better health.
If you would like to make an appointment for health screening, please contact the health screening centre at the Gleneagles Hospital nearest to you.