FOOD FACT: Whole Grains Fiber

Foods that are prepared using the entire grain are called whole grain products. Foods with whole grains have fibre, protein and many nutrients to help you stay healthy and fuller longer. Whole grains offer a “complete package” of health benefits, unlike refined grains, which are stripped of valuable nutrients in the refining process.

All whole grain kernels contain three parts: the bran, germ, and endosperm. Each section houses health-promoting nutrients.

The bran is the fiber-rich outer layer that supplies B vitamins, iron, copper, zinc, magnesium, antioxidants, and phytochemicals. Phytochemicals are natural chemical compounds in plants that have been researched for their role in disease prevention.

The germ is the core of the seed where growth occurs; it is rich in healthy fats, vitamin E, B vitamins, phytochemicals, and antioxidants.

The endosperm is the interior layer that holds carbohydrates, protein, and small amounts of some B vitamins and minerals.

Fiber is a type of carbohydrate that the body can’t digest. Though most carbohydrates are broken down into sugar molecules, fiber cannot be broken down into sugar molecules, and instead it passes through the body undigested. Adults need about 25 to 35 grams of fiber daily in their diet.

Fiber comes in two varieties, both beneficial to health:

Soluble fiber, which dissolves in water, can help lower glucose levels as well as help lower blood cholesterol. Foods with soluble fiber include oatmeal, nuts, beans, apples and blueberries.

Insoluble fiber, which does not dissolve in water, can help food move through your digestive system, promoting regularity and helping prevent constipation. Foods with insoluble fibers include wheat, whole wheat bread, whole grain couscous, brown rice, legumes, carrots, cucumbers and tomatoes.

Resistant starch, while not traditionally thought of as fiber, acts in a similar way. Resistant starch is the part of starchy food (approximately 10%) that resists normal digestion in the small intestine. Resistant starch is also important for gut health. Bacteria in the large bowel ferment and change the resistant starch into short-chain fatty acids, which are important to bowel health and may protect against cancer. These fatty acids are also absorbed into the bloodstream and may play a role in lowering blood cholesterol levels.

The best source of fiber is whole grain foods, and this is because they have few ingredients in addition to whole grain. Moreover, eating whole grains in their whole forms such as brown rice, are healthy choices because they pack in the nutritional benefits of whole grains without any additional ingredients.

What are the nutritional benefits of taking whole grain fiber?

Many people overlook the importance of adding fiber to their diet. Fiber is essential in our daily diet especially whole grain and some the benefits are:

  1. DIGESTION;

Whole grains have other digestive benefits as well. The fiber content keeps bowel movements regular (studies have shown that people who eat more fiber need fewer laxatives). And they help ward off diverticulosis, the condition in which little pouches form in the colon wall, causing inflammation, constipation, diarrhea, and pain. Fiber is responsible for much of the benefit, but whole grains also contain lactic acid, which promotes “good bacteria” in the large intestine. These organisms aid digestion, promote better nutrition absorption, and may even beef up the body’s immune system.

2. CHOLESTEROL LEVEL

Whole grains not only help prevent your body from absorbing “bad” cholesterol, they may also lower triglycerides, both of which are major contributors to heart disease. In fact, whole grains lower the risk of heart disease overall.

3. BLOOD PRESSURE

The heart benefits of whole grains don’t stop with cholesterol and triglycerides. They also lower blood pressure, one of the most important risk factors for heart disease. A study found a 19% lower risk of hypertension among men who ate more than 7 servings of whole grain breakfast cereal a week compared with those who ate one or less.

4. WEIGHT CONTROL

People who eat a lot of whole grains are more likely to keep their weight in check and less likely to gain weight over time than those who eat refined grains. One way whole grains may help you control your weight is by making you feel fuller than refined grains such as cookies or white bread. Whole grains take longer to digest and have a more satiating effect, this could also help keep your portions under control.

5. GREAT SOURCE OF B-VITAMINS AND MINERALS;

Whole grains are rich in the B vitamins; thiamin, riboflavin, and niacin, all of which are involved with metabolism. Along with vitamins, whole grains are a great source of the minerals our bodies need to stay healthy. These include iron, which transports oxygen throughout the body and helps prevent anemia; magnesium, which builds bones; and selenium that protects against oxidation. They also contain zinc, necessary to keep your immune system in fighting shape.

6. BLOOD SUGAR

One of the main benefits of whole grains is that compared to refined grains, they help keep your blood glucose from spiking, which can reduce your risk of type 2 diabetes, among other things. Something as simple as swapping one third of a serving of cooked white rice a day for brown rice can bring about a 16% decline in type 2 diabetes risk. Eating whole grains has been proven to have a protective effect against type 2 diabetes, so they are a smart choice for people with pre-diabetes or high risk of diabetes.

Examples of whole grain fiber are

  • Bulgur (made from whole wheat) has the most fiber of all grains with 8.2 grams per cup.
  • Whole-wheat pasta
  • Oatmeal
  • Whole wheat bread
  • Brown rice.
  • Millet
  • Couscous
  • Corn
  • Popcorn. Most people don’t realize that popcorn is a whole-grain food. It’s high in important nutrients like manganese, magnesium, zinc, copper, phosphorus and many B vitamins. But it’s best prepared homemade. Avoid purchasing prepackaged microwave bags of popcorn as they may contain potentially harmful chemicals. In addition, some commercially prepared varieties may be smothered in high amounts of unhealthy fats, salt, artificial flavorings or sugar, turning this healthy snack into something very unhealthy.

As whole grains may seem like a complete meal with many nutrients and all you decide to eat is whole grain food, you may need to take extra care to get sufficient folic acid, a B vitamin. While most refined-grain products are fortified, whole grains are not typically fortified with folic acid.

Look for whole grains that have been fortified with folic acid, such as some ready-to-eat cereals. Eat plenty of other folate-rich foods, including fruits, vegetables and legumes. Folic acid is especially important for women who could become pregnant or are pregnant.

You can add whole grains to your diet by,

  • Enjoying breakfasts that include whole-grain cereals, such as cereals from millet, oat, guinea corn, local rice.
  • Substituting white bread with whole wheat bread. Make sandwiches using whole-grain breads
  • Replacing white rice with quinoa, brown rice, bulgur or couscous.
  • Including healthy homemade popcorn to your snack options, and enjoy them with nuts. For more flavor.

Eating a variety of whole grains not only ensures that you get more health-promoting nutrients but also helps make your meals and snacks more interesting.

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REFERENCES

Hsph. Harvard

Heart.org

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