For years we have been told to include plenty of whole-grains in our diet in order to improve our health. But what is so good about whole-grains and why are they better than other types of carbs?
Historically speaking, the vast majority of our carbohydrates came in wholegrain form as there was simply no other choice. Today this has changed. With modern food processing techniques and the introduction of white flour came a vast range of new foods including white bread, cakes, pasties, biscuits, and the list goes on. Although these new foods are still considered grains and cereal based products, they vary greatly from whole-grain carbohydrates in both form and effect on health.
What is a wholegrain?
A whole grain is made up of three parts. A hard shell-like outer layer called the “bran”, the “germ” and the “endosperm”, both found on the inside of the grain. Most of the fiber and nutrients are found in the bran and the germ, whilst the starch is mainly contained in the “endosperm”. Whole-grain products contain all three parts of the grain, and thus provide a good ratio of fiber, nutrients and carbohydrates (starch).
What are refined carbs?
I’m sure you have heard of the term refined carbs. This simply refers to grains and cereal products that have been processed and refined. Usually this means removing the bran and the germ from the grain and leaving the starchy endosperm eg. White flour. The end result is different texture that many people prefer.
Why are whole grains better for health?
One of the more profound discoveries in the nutrition world of late has been the Glycemic Index. This basically ranks carbohydrate foods based on how quickly they are broken down in the body and released into the bloodstream. The higher the Glycemic index the higher the spike in blood sugar.
We now know that lower Glycemic Index carbohydrates are much better for our health on a number of levels. This is where whole-grain carbs come in. Whole-grain carbs typically have a lower Glycemic Index due to the sound structure of the complete grain with all 3 parts in tact. The “bran” slows down digestion by working as a barrier to enzymes in the mouth and stomach, whilst the high fiber content in the bran and germ slow down the movement through the digestive tract.
This is why whole-grain type grains and cereals tend to keep you feeling fuller form longer after a meal. Combine this with the abundance of naturally occurring vitamins and mineral found in the grain, and its little wonder why choosing whole-grain or whole-meal varieties equals better health!
Get personalised advice and help from Accredited Nutritionist and Adelaide Dietitian David Finnin.