Going against the grain – What are you missing out on if you go grain-free?
Grain foods have received a lot of unfavourable attention recently. Many popular diets label them ‘high carb’ or ‘unhealthy’ and promote removing them from our diet.
What are grain foods?
Food originating from grains include wheat, oats, rice, barley, millet and corn. Grain foods are one of the five main food groups. Foods are grouped together based on the types of nutrients they provide. Eliminating an entire food group can make it very difficult to get all the nutrients we need. For example, two-thirds of our intake of vitamin B1 (Thiamin) comes from this food group!
What nutrients do grains provide?
Grain foods provide fibre. Not eating enough fibre can lead to constipation. Eating high fibre carbohydrates can help alleviate this issue. Wholegrains are the best sources of fibre. Wholegrain foods include multigrain or wholegrain breads and crackers, oats, muesli, quinoa, buckwheat and popcorn (hold the butter). Diets high in wholegrains also tend to have a lower glycemic index (or “GI”) which means they get digested more slowly. This helps to keep us feeling full for longer and can sustain our energy levels. It is wise to limit refined or highly processed grains like white bread, sugary breakfast cereals, biscuits and cakes as these contain little fibre and often have lots of added sugar.
What are the health benefits of grains?
As well as providing important nutrients, grains are necessary for proper digestion and satisfying hunger and taste. Wholegrains can also help stabilise blood glucose levels and lower cholesterol. Many studies have shown that adequate wholegrain intake can reduce our risk of obesity, diabetes, heart disease and some cancers.
Eating moderate amounts of nutritious carbohydrates, rather than eliminating them altogether, will help make sure you can work towards your health and lifestyle goals as nutritiously as possible.