Maybe it's Time to Put Carbs Back Into Your Diet

Nutrition

By Joy Stephenson-Laws, JD, Founder  and the pH Labs healthcare team

September is Whole Grain Awareness Month, and I know what you may be thinking…

Grains are carbs. Stay away from carbs!

But don’t believe the misconception that carbohydrates (bread, rice, etc.) are bad for you or that  if you want to lose weight, you should avoid them like the plague.

All grains start off as whole grains when they are grown in the field. But, unfortunately, many grains today in food products like cereals and breads are processed and refined, making them no longer whole and depleting them of critical nutrients.

But good, complex carbs, like whole grains, are critical for energy and fueling your workouts. They can actually help you lose weight and help you maintain a healthy weight. You just have to be proactive and mindful about making sure you eat grains in their natural state and avoid refined grains, like white rice and white pasta.

Let’s take a closer look at exactly what a whole grain is.

Whole grains contain three original parts:

  • The Bran, the multi-layered outer skin of the edible kernel. This part contains antioxidants, B vitamins and fiber.
  • The Germ, the embryo. This part has the ability to sprout into a plant and contains B vitamins, protein, minerals and healthy fats.
  • The Endosperm, is essentially the germ’s food supply. It has starchy carbohydrates, proteins and small amounts of vitamins and minerals.

So as you can see, each part of the whole grain is important and rich in nutrients that may benefit you health-wise.

What are some types of whole grains?

Gluten-free whole grains

  • Amaranth. Check out our previous blog on this gluten-free, whole grain.
  • Quinoa. Read our blog on some of the health benefits of this delicious whole grain.
  • Buckwheat. “Health benefits attributed to BW [buckwheat] include plasma cholesterol level reduction, neuroprotection, anticancer, anti-inflammatory, antidiabetic effects, and improvement of hypertension conditions,” according to the National Institutes for Health (NIH)
  • Millet. Is a popular crop in India and Africa. “Indeed, there is evidence to suggest that millet has many properties making it a good dietary option for diabetics. For example, one study used diabetic mice to test different diets and concluded that added millet protein may increase insulin sensitivities, and reduce blood glucose level as well as triglyceride level.” Corn and brown rice are also two popular, gluten-free whole grains.”

Whole grains with gluten

  • Barley. One cup of cooked barley is full of important vitamins and minerals, including 146 mg of potassium. Potassium is a mineral that works with sodium to balance the fluids and electrolytes in your body. It helps keep blood pressure under control and may help reduce kidney stones and bone loss as you age. It may also help decrease your risk for stroke.
  • Rye. According to the NIH, rye bread may be a good type of bread for diabetics. It may also keep you fuller for a longer period of time. “Whole grain rye crisp bread induces higher satiety and lower insulin response compared with refined wheat crisp bread. Microstructural characteristics, dietary fiber content and composition are probable contributors to the increased satiety after ingestion of rye crisp breads.”
  • Bulgar. Is a whole wheat grain. It is quick-cooking and makes a delicious side. You can also serve it with vegetables as a main dish. It is a great source of plant-based protein and is rich in fiber and other nutrients.

What else can eating whole grains do for us?

Whole grains are known to promote heart health. Typically, they’re excellent sources of dietary fiber which may steady your blood sugar levels. Fiber also helps lower cholesterol, and may even prevent the formation of small clots that can cause strokes and heart attacks.

And recent studies have shown that whole grains may play a significant role in decreasing colorectal cancer. This may have to do with the high fiber content, antioxidants and more nutrient powerhouses found in whole grains.

A closer look at some additional nutrients found in many whole grains.

  • B Vitamins. There are eight B vitamins and many whole grains are rich in these essential nutrients. B vitamins are important for a variety of functions in the body including brain function, converting our food into fuel, cell renewal and more.
  • Iron. Many whole grains are a great plant-based source of iron. One cup of amaranth has 15 mg of iron. Adult males need about 8 mg. of iron, and adult females need around 18 mg. of iron. Pregnant women should aim for about 27 mg. Iron is a critical mineral that every single cell in your body needs. It is needed to make hemoglobin, a component of your red blood cells that delivers oxygen to all the cells in your body. Without adequate iron, your body can’t carry enough oxygen to your vital organs.
  • Selenium. Whole grains tend to be rich in this mineral. Most of what selenium does or changes in the body is through the action of selenoproteins. These are just what they sound like; proteins that have some selenium in them. Selenium hops into amino acids, creating a special kind of amino acid that attracts oxidation-reduction (free-radical-removing) reactions readily. This makes a great antioxidant, because free radicals cause aging and damage to the body, which can contribute to the development of varicose veins.
  • Magnesium. Many whole grains are also rich in magnesium. This mineral is needed by more than 300 human body enzymes to facilitate biochemical reactions. It helps create energy for the body and activates muscle and nerve tissues by enabling potassium and calcium transfer through your cell membranes. If magnesium levels in the body are too low, whole body systems don’t work properly, resulting in fatigue and cramps.

Where Can You Get Whole Grains?

My advice is to go to the bulk food items area of your grocery store. I try to avoid products in packages and boxes. You can also check out this guide on how to navigate all types of food labels that can sometimes be misleading.

And it is important to remember that it is equally important that our bodies have the correct balance of carbs along with vitamins, minerals, protein, healthy fats and more.

Enjoy Your Healthy Life!

The pH professional health care team includes recognized experts from a variety of health care and related disciplines, including physicians, health care attorneys, nutritionists, nurses and certified fitness instructors. To learn more about the pH Health Care Team, click here.

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