The process of refining increases the shelf life of grains, but it reduces their nutritional value. This NutriNeat article presents a complete A to Z list of common and uncommon whole grains. Read on to know the health benefits offered by them.
Did You Know?
Whole grains are used to produce several consumer products other than food products. Wheat is used to produce adhesives, coatings, polymers, resins, paper, straw particle board (wood), carbon-less copy paper, roofing and other building materials, golf tees, finishing agents in textile industry, insulation, charcoal, biodegradable foams and packaging products, cups, plastic bags, etc.
Just a few decades ago, homemade whole grain food was the main ingredient of a regular diet. Drastic lifestyle changes and a “fast-lane” approach to living has significantly affected eating habits of people all over the world. But quick availability of knowledge on the Internet has made people realize what is healthy and what can damage health seriously. So, healthy food is making a comeback.
Foods and flours which contain bran (outer layer of the grain), endosperm (middle largest layer), and germ (inner component) of the grain are considered as whole grain foods. Bran contains fiber, antioxidants, B vitamins, phytochemicals, and 50-80% of minerals that are found in the grain. Endosperm is packed with carbohydrates, but it also contains protein, some B vitamins, and minerals. The germ contains healthy fats, B vitamins, phytochemicals, and antioxidant vitamin E.
When grains are milled and refined, the bran and germ are removed during the process. This helps increase the shelf life of the food, but it takes away a major portion of vital nutrients. Moreover, whole grains have a typical nutty flavor. Refined grains cannot impart such flavor to the food. More information on the health benefits provided by whole grains is presented further in the article. For now, let’s take a look at the list of whole grains.
✦ The health-promoting potential of whole grains is higher than that of vegetables or fruits.
✦ The fiber helps improve digestive health.
✦ Grains help maintain weight within the normal range. Refined foods promote weight gain.
✦ They reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, inflammation-related diseases, breast cancer, etc.
✦ They help prevent formation of gallstones.
✦ They are a good source of energy and can keep you satiated for a longer period of time.
✦ They promote women’s health, especially postmenopausal women.
✦ They promote cardiovascular health.
✦ It is a pseudo-grain, but its uses and nutrition are similar to true grains. It’s a small and slightly sticky gluten-free grain.
✦ 1 cup provides 21% of the daily recommended value of dietary fiber.
✦ It contains a high amount of protein (it has roughly 14% protein), magnesium, and calcium.
✦ The compound squalene present in the grain can help prevent cancer.
✦ Can be used in cereals, breads, muffins, crackers, and pancakes, or you may pop it like corn and consume it.
✦ Good source of the essential amino acid lysine, which is rarely found in grains.
✦ Hulled barley is added to stews and soups. Its flour is used in bakery products. Malted barley is used to make beer and whiskey.
✦ High in fiber. 1 cup contains about 25% of daily recommended intake.
✦ Hulled barley is considered as a whole grain and is nutritious. Though pearl barley is not a whole grain.
✦ Only the outermost layer of the grain, the hull, is removed to get brown rice.
✦ The aleurone layer of the grain that is filled with healthy essential fats is removed during the polishing process. So, white rice is low in nutrients.
✦ A good source of niacin (vitamin B3), manganese, phosphorus, magnesium, and copper.
✦ It is high in fiber and selenium, which reduce the risk of colon cancer.
✦ It’s not a type of wheat, but it is gluten-free. It’s a seed of an herb which is triangular in shape. It is crushed to make groats or ground to make flour.
✦ It is rich in fiber and is used to make pancakes and noodles. Buckwheat porridge can be a good energizing breakfast food.
✦ Amongst all other grains, buckwheat contains very high levels of the antioxidant compound rutin, which improves blood circulation. (It prevents LDL cholesterol from restricting the flow in blood vessels.)
✦ Boiled wheat kernels (mostly durum wheat) are dried and cracked to produce bulgur.
✦ 1 cup can supply 33% of the daily recommended value of fiber.
✦ It is used in sweet as well as savory dishes.
✦ Since it is boiled and dried, it takes only 10 minutes to cook bulgur. Therefore, it is as popular as pasta.
✦ Although corn is produced to feed cattle and make sweeteners, people have recently started considering it as a healthy food.
✦ It is consumed in several ways. For example, popcorn, corn on cob, soups, salads, patties, cornflour, boiled or baked corn, polenta, tortillas, etc.
✦ A study conducted by Cornell University found that corn contains more antioxidants than any other grain or vegetable.
✦ It is an ancient variety of wheat. It is nothing but a diploid wheat with only two sets of chromosomes.
✦ It is grown in Italy, Austria, France and Germany. In the U.S. too, farmers have started growing einkorn.
✦ Studies indicate that einkorn contains more protein, phosphorus, potassium, and beta-carotene than modern wheat.
✦ It is an old strain of wheat and is used to make a special type of pasta.
✦ Semolina flour made from emmer is used in special soups and dishes.
✦ It contains more fiber and less calories than brown rice and quinoa, and so, you can incorporate it in a weight loss diet.
✦ Lightly polished durum wheat kernels are called grano. Some amount of bran is lost during this process, but polishing helps reduce the cooking time.
✦ Although it cannot be termed as a pure whole grain, it is definitely healthier than completely refined grain.
✦ Also known as Khorasan grain, it is widely grown in various parts of the world.
✦ It contains more protein (11 g in 1 cup) and antioxidant vitamin E than common wheat.
✦ Organically grown kamut is used as an ingredient in various whole grain products.
✦ It is native to Peru and Bolivia. It can be described as a cousin of quinoa.
✦ It contains about 15-19% protein.
✦ It is not covered with bitter saponins (like quinoa) that need to be rinsed off before using.
✦ It is loaded with the antioxidant quercetin.
✦ It can be used in a wide variety of foods―in desserts, flatbreads, side dishes, baked goods, porridge, alcoholic beverages, etc.
✦ It exhibits a good balance of essential amino acids.
✦ It is gluten-free and is a good source of magnesium, copper, manganese, and phosphorous. It is a heart-healthy food.
✦ It can help reduce the severity of asthma and migraine attacks.
✦ They are an invariable part of breakfast cereal.
✦ They contain a unique antioxidant, avenanthramides, that cancels the effects of LDL cholesterol and helps maintain the health of blood vessels.
✦ They are packed with the fiber called beta-glucan, which helps lower blood cholesterol levels and enhances the function of the immune system.
✦ It contains significant amount of heart-healthy fats.
✦ Rinsing before cooking is essential to get rid of the bitter saponins.
✦ Protein from quinoa is a complete protein as it contains all the essential amino acids.
✦ Anti-inflammatory phytonutrients from quinoa help lower the risk of inflammation-related diseases.
✦ It is low in gluten.
✦ Rye fiber has an exceptionally high water binding capacity, and hence, can quickly make you feel satiated. You may incorporate rye bread in weight loss diets.
✦ It is gluten-free and can be used in various foods like porridge, beer, and bakery products. Popped sorghum is also a healthy food.
✦ Research shows that it contains more polyphenol antioxidants than pomegranates and blueberries. More research is needed to confirm the use of bran (that is removed during processing) as a food additive as it can increase the antioxidant content of the food.
✦ It is a type of wheat which contains higher amount of protein than most other types.
✦ It enhances the function of the immune system and keeps you healthy and strong.
✦ It is loaded with calcium. One cup of teff can provide 12% of the daily recommended value of the mineral calcium.
✦ It contains antioxidant vitamin C. This vitamin is rarely found in grains.
✦ It is gluten-free and high in iron too.
✦ It is rich in complex fiber, which helps prevent colon cancer.
✦ It is a recently developed hybrid of durum wheat and rye.
✦ As it doesn’t require any use of commercial fertilizers and pesticides, it is an ideal crop for organic farming.
✦ It is high in antioxidants.
✦ Half cup of wheat berries contain various essential nutrients like selenium, manganese, phosphorous, and magnesium.
✦ They contain lignan―a phytochemical that is believed to protect women against breast cancer.
✦ It is an essential ingredient in breads, pastas, cakes, cookies, and various other food products that are incorporated in the regular diet.
While buying any food products, one should check that the first ingredients listed on the label are whole grains. According to the data published by SPINS, in May 2011, the “Whole Grain” stamp helped increase the sales of products by 13.3% in 2010. Various studies show that people have started consuming more whole grain products not just because they are healthy, but also because they are enjoying its taste.