Many know that whole grains are healthy in theory, but many people do not really know exactly what they are or why they are healthy to eat. This overview will explain why whole grains are important and provide some ideas for adding them to one’s diet.
What Is a Whole Grain?
A grain is a seed that is grown from grass. Grains come in many sizes and shapes, including wheat, barley, rice, and quinoa. Many types of grain are heavily processed before humans eat them. For example, typical white rice is made by removing the nutrition-packed outer layer of the rice. Unlike these heavily refined grains, whole grains contain the entire seed. This includes the bran, outer layer, grain germ, and the rest of the seed.
The Health Benefits of Whole Grains
Whole grains provide a few distinct benefits that cannot be found in refined grains. Since they contain the outer husk of the seed, they have much higher fiber levels. Fiber is an indigestible plant matter that helps move things through the intestinal system. Getting enough fiber is linked to better bowel and cardiovascular health. Furthermore, whole grains also contain the nutrient-rich germ of the grain. The germ is the heart of a seed, and it holds all the necessary ingredients to sprout a living plant. Compared to the rest of the plant matter in a seed, a germ has far higher levels of vitamins and minerals. Whole grains are generally healthier than their refined counterparts.
How to Increase Whole Grain Levels
Those who are interested in adding more whole grains to their diet have several options. First of all, try substituting whole-grain cereals and breads for refined options. Take the time to fully research the product before purchasing it though. Many brown breads or cereals that market themselves as healthy are not actually whole grain. There are also whole grains that people can cook directly. Try making a brown rice dish as a side, or add barley or millet to a stew. Popcorn is also a whole grain, so it can be a great way to eat whole grains as a snack.