Published: 11/01/2014 - Updated: 03/08/2020
Author: Dra. Loredana Lunadei, PhD
A whole grain is a grain that contains its shell, seed, and it embryonic sack. When grains are refined, the shell and seed are eliminated. Throughout this refining process the grain acquired a finer texture and it less perishable, but it also loses all its dietary fiber, iron, and nearly all its complex-B vitamins, as well as its antioxidants, minerals, and substances that reduce harmful cholesterol. Refined grains are more easily digested but this could be counter-productive because this causes a larger and a quicker increase in glucose levels. This causes a greater demand for insulin than whole grains. This could eventually lead to the development of type 2 diabetes.
Whole grains have large amounts of qualities for health because of their large amount of nutrients that help reduce the risk of cardiac disease, they contain folic acid, magnesium and potassium. Their fiber reduces harmful cholesterol (because they contain phytosterols), they keep the colon and intestines in perfect condition, and help absorb foods a lot better. They also prevent diverticulitis, constipation, digestive problems, indigestion, etc.
A few examples of whole grains are oats, whole grain rice, bran, barley, kasha, burgol, popcorn (without dressing or salt), etc.
Nutritive elements and properties of whole grains
- Antioxidants: help prevent oxidation or skin wear and tear. They help good tissue and cellular regeneration throughout the entire body, they help keep the skin fresh and elastic, and they prevent skin deterioration, like dryness, wrinkles, spots, etc.
- Iron: is an essential collagen mineral (important protein found in cartilage, bones, and all connective tissues). This mineral is present in a lot of the body’s enzymes, it is an essential part of blood that, when combined with oxygen, produces a protein called hemoglobin which is in charge of transporting oxygen to the brain, heart, liver, kidneys, and generally, to every cell in the body. It is also an essential component in myoglobin, another important protein that transports oxygen to muscles. It is an important component during pregnancy because a large part of this mineral’s consumption is used by the mother to increase the amount of blood in her body by 50%. The rest of the iron in the mother’s body is absorbed and utilized by the fetus and placenta for development. This mineral prevents and fights anemia.
- B-complex vitamins: necessary for good body functioning, they promote healthy functioning of the nervous system and help provide the body with strength and energy. For example: thiamine (vitamin B1), present in whole grains, participates in the metabolism of carbohydrates, fats and proteins, has beneficial effects on energy levels, help against depression, irritability, exhaustion, and memory loss. It diminishes bags and inflammation under the eyes and prevents premature aging. Vitamin B3 (niacin or nicotinic acid), on the other hand, is also present in whole grains and plays a part in blood circulation, growth, and correct nervous system functioning. It takes part in sex hormone productions and controlling, in some ways, blood sugar levels. It also helps keep skin healthy, blocks harmful effects from UV rays, and increase productive cholesterol in the blood. A deficiency of this vitamin could lead to depression, loss of appetite, dermatitis, or digestive disorders like indigestion, diarrhea, oral ulcers, etc. It could also lead to bad breath (halitosis). This vitamin is highly regarded in the field of beauty because it strengthens capillary fibers and keeps skin moisturized.
- Dietary fiber: composed of a series of vegetable elements that are resistant to digestive processes. Dietary fiber improves glycemic control (which is why it is recommend for treatment with diabetic patients or those who are glucose intolerant). Dietary fiber is one of the basic elements for keeping intestinal health and preventing all sorts of conditions, like constipation, diverticulitis, stuck fecal material, toxin adherence to the intestinal lining caused by diets high in animal fats, excessive consumption of cow’s milk and cheese, processed foods, etc.
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