If you are trying to get healthy but are still eating white rice, pasta, or white bread, you might find you are paddling upstream with no paddles. If you are serious about reaching your optimum weight and wish to feel healthy, abundant and vibrant, you must switch to whole grains.
What makes a grain whole?
Whole grains include the whole kernel, whereas refined grains remove the bran and the germ. Without these, 25% of the grain’s protein is lost, as well as much of the fiber and other important nutrients. In regards to appearance, whole grains are usually brown in color, and refined grains are white.
Why Whole Grains?
It all comes down to fiber and the glycemic index.
Due to the high content of fiber in whole grains, the glucose is digested by the body at a slower rate. This is desirable because it results in a steady release of fuel/glucose to the body, instead of a quick burst of glucose.
This process is explained by something called the glycemic index, which is a term to describe the time it takes the body to turn food into fuel. Whole grains have more fiber, which slows down the digestion process, resulting in a steady release of glucose. Whereas refined grains have little or no fiber, are digested quickly, and release a massive dose of glucose to the body all at once.
When you eat foods with a high glycemic index your insulin levels spike, resulting in a quick surge of energy, followed by a crash. This is undesirable as excess insulin levels cause the body to hold on to fat. Flour is especially detrimental because it is pulverized, making it the most rapidly digested form of grain. Eating grain flour results in a dangerously high glycemic load leading to inflammation, weight gain, and blood sugar imbalances.
Low glycemic index foods such as whole grains, however, have the opposite effect. These foods work for you by promoting weight loss by keeping you full longer. They also balance your blood sugar levels, which results in a steady stream of energy throughout the day.
A good way to avoid the afternoon sugar crash blues is to eat whole grains instead of refined ones.
Whole Grain Buying Guide:
(All of the grains below are naturally gluten-free)
Quinoa (pronounced KEEN-wah) has the highest nutritional profile and is the fastest cooking of all grains.
- Ideal food for endurance
- Contains all eight amino acids to make it a complete protein
- Has a protein content equal to milk
- High in B vitamins, iron, zinc, potassium, calcium, and vitamin E
- Easy to digest
When cooking, try making a lot of quinoa at once, and eat it as leftovers. Quinoa can be reheated with a splash of nut milk for breakfast porridge; you can add dried fruit, nuts, and cinnamon for a sweet treat. Add finely chopped raw vegetables and dressing for a cooling salad, or add chopped, cooked, root vegetables for a warming side dish. Store dry, uncooked quinoa in a cool, dry, dark place in a tightly closed glass jar for up to one year.
Before cooking, quinoa must be rinsed to remove the toxic (but naturally occurring) bitter coating, called saponin. Although quinoa is rinsed before it is packaged and sold, it is wise to rinse again at home before use.
Millet is a very small, round grain that traces back thousands of years. It was the staple grain in China before rice became popular and continues to sustain people in Africa, China, Russia, and India, among other places.
- Soothing, especially for indigestion or morning sickness
- Anti-fungal; helps ease Candida symptoms
- Improves breath
- Warming; good to eat in cool or rainy weather
- High in protein, fiber, iron, magnesium, and potassium
- Contains silica, which helps keep bones flexible in aging process
Millet can be used in porridges, cereal, soups, and dense breads. (Click HERE for a delicious millet dish that can be eaten at any time of the day) It is a delicious wheat-free substitution for couscous, as it has a similar consistency. Millet is often found in the bulk section of the health food store and is generally not sold in regular supermarkets. Store in an airtight jar or glass container for six to nine months.
Brown rice has all the bran layers intact (unlike white rice) and contains all of its naturally present nutrients. These layers of bran act to protect the grain and to help maintain its fatty acids. Brown rice contains the highest amount of B vitamins out of all grains. Additionally, it contains iron, vitamin E, amino acids, and linoleic acid. Brown rice is high in fiber, extremely low in sodium, and is composed of 80% complex carbohydrates.
- Promotes good digestion
- Quenches thirst
- Balances blood sugar and controls mood swings
When purchasing brown rice I recommend buying organic brown rice and storing it in airtight glass jars in a dark cupboard.
Kasha is the name for buckwheat that has been roasted to a deep amber color. Despite its name, buckwheat is not actually a member of the wheat family, but rather a relative of rhubarb. Of all the grains, buckwheat has the longest transit time in the digestive tract and is the most filling. Buckwheat is a great staple for vegetarians as it is a complete protein.
- Stabilizes blood sugar
- Builds blood; neutralizes toxic acidic waste
- Benefits circulation
- High proportion of all eight amino acids, especially lysine making it a complete protein.
- Rich in vitamin E and B-complex vitamins
Kasha has a robust, earthy flavor and makes a very hearty meal. It can be eaten as a hot breakfast cereal, a side dish, or a grain entrée mixed with vegetables.
Oats were one of the first cereals cultivated by man and have been eaten as far back as 7,000 B.C.. The Scottish brought the cereal over to North America in the 17th century, and it has been a love affair ever since as 75% of the American population eats them.
- Rich in avenanthramide, an antioxidant that protects the heart.
- Aids digestion
- Rich in fiber
- Lowers blood sugar
- Improves nervous system function
Oats are naturally gluten-free, but are usually processed in facilities that process wheat, so trace amounts of wheat can be found in them. Usually people with gluten sensitivity can digest this trace amount, but those with celiac disease cannot. If you wish to avoid gluten all together, many brands offer special gluten-free oats. (Click HERE for a yummy overnight oats recipe)
When buying oats make sure to avoid instant because they are more refined. Instead, choose rolled or steel cut oats. My favorite brand is Bob’s Red Mill Organic Oats.
Have fun getting wholly!
Health Coach Jenna