By Nichelle Laus
Grains are magical little seeds that can do wonders for your body. They help reduce constipation due to their high fiber content; they can lower the risk of heart disease, stroke, certain cancers, diabetes, and other chronic diseases; and they can even aid with weight management — if you know what to look for.
It’s hard to tell the difference between the products that are actually good for you and those that simply claim they are good for you because they are made with whole grains. So do you go with the loaf of bread that has a dozen different grains and a picture of a vibrant and happy (albeit inaccurately shaped) heart on the packaging? Well, that all depends on the quality of the grains used to make that loaf of bread.
Your best bet is to go with the product that contains 100-per cent whole grains. This means that 100 per cent of the original kernel — the bran, the germ, and the endosperm — is still present after processing. These three components contain many healthful nutrients such as fibre, starch, proteins, essential fatty acids, antioxidants, B vitamins, and other vitamins and minerals, which all play major roles in maintaining optimal health. That being said, don’t believe any claims on the front of a product’s packaging. Instead, look for products that list 100-per cent whole grains as one of the first ingredients, rather than those that simply say they are made with whole grains.
So if whole-grain means that the whole grain is used, multigrain must be even healthier, right? Not necessarily. Multigrain simply means it contains more than one grain, but this doesn’t mean that any of those grains are whole and, as a result, some of the nutrients are lost when they go through the refining process. To get the benefits of all those different grains included in your multigrain product, check the nutrition label to make sure that each one includes the word “whole.”
Rye has a heartier taste than most other grains and, because it is difficult to separate the germ and bran from the endosperm of rye, it generally retains a large quantity of nutrients, such as fibre, protein, potassium, calcium, and iron. Studies have shown that whole-grain rye can help control blood sugar, lower cholesterol, regulate appetite, reduce body weight, and improve insulin sensitivity — which is great news for diabetics — but keep an eye on the ingredients of foods made with rye. Some breads use caramel food colour to get that dark brown hue, so look for words such as “wholegrain rye” or “whole rye flour” and avoid anything that is made with refined flour, food colouring, or additives.
A sprouted grain is a whole grain that is harvested right before the seed turns into a fully developed plant. Sprouting is believed to make grains more easily digestible and retain more protein, vitamins, and minerals than unsprouted grains. These types of grains are a better choice for vegetarians, and when combined with other grains and legumes in sprouted breads, they can deliver all of the essential amino acids needed to make up a complete protein. However, these advantages are only maximized when eating the sprouted grains themselves because they lose some of this nutritional boost during processing. Unfortunately, there isn’t yet a regulated definition for what can be considered a sprouted grain.
There are many different types of great-tasting grains, and adding quality ones to your diet will ensure you are getting the proper nutrients. Consume whole grains as much as possible to ensure you are not missing the nutrients that are lost through the refining process.