The Whole Grain Debate – What’s your View?
Are whole grains good for us or not?
In response to the article (‘The 4 Worst Ingredients in your Kitchen‘) posted on JM Fitness UK, which talks about certain ‘problem’ foods in todays diet; I have a question from Angela. She wants to know if oats are included as a ‘whole grain’ as she enjoys a bowl of porridge for breakfast most mornings. She finds that it helps to keep her feeling full until lunchtime . . .
Never has the idea that to be healthy, we need to follow a ‘prescribed plan’; been so popular, and there are so many different nutrition ideas and plans around . . . Here a just a few examples:
- Clean-eating – Consuming food in its most natural state, or as close to it as possible
- Paleo Diet – Eating only foods as our ancestors did during the Paleolithic era
- The Atkins Diet – Eat lean protein and low-starch vegetables, and avoid simple carbohydrates
- Slimming World – ‘Red Days’, ‘Green Days’
- Weight Watchers – Follow a points system
- 3-Hour Diet – eat small portions every three hours throughout the day
- Blood Type Diet – The eat right for your type diet
- The G.I Diet – Only eating food that is low on the Glycaemic index
Whole grain diet? It’s confusing . . .
With so many diets around, one would be forgiven for getting more than a little confused as to which is the ‘best’ to follow . . .
The article refers to a ‘Paleo’ diet’ which promotes eating only foods as our ancestors did during the Paleolithic era. It’s similar to a ‘Clean’ diet in that they both advocate whole foods. However, the Paleo diet limits food to pre-Industrial Revolution, meaning it prohibits all grains (not just refined ones), legumes, and dairy products, which clean eating does not.
A clean-eating’ program is not supposed to be seen as a ‘diet’, more of a ‘lifestyle’ approach to eating and is certainly not as strict as the ‘Paleo’ method.
There is no doubt that a no-grain diet can actually lower cholesterol and blood pressure, as well as a whole host of other ‘benefits’ (promote weight loss, reduce inflammation, alleviate dermatitis or acne, end digestive issues like heart disease, increase fertility, and dramatically improve energy levels), but eliminating a whole food group is probably not a good idea for any great length of time.
Also, this means grains in all forms INCLUDING oats, wheat, rye, barley, maize, rice, millet, corn etc. and even whole grains – that means pasta, bread, biscuits, pastries, desserts, rolls, crackers, etc. and it such a big part of everyone’s diet nowadays, that most people would really struggle to cut it out completely!
Take a relaxed approach
If you want to take the more relaxed (‘Clean’) approach to eating and continue to include a small amount of grains, legumes and dairy in your diet, then it is wise to go for whole-grains that haven’t been as highly processed, and steer clear of any refined flour products like white bread, white rice, etc, and processed food like biscuits, cakes, pies, etc . . .
Porridge (oats) is a whole-grain, so is not as highly processed as other grains like wheat and studies show that eating whole-grains has so many more advantages than eating refined grains.
Processed (or refined) grains are made when processing removes parts of the natural grain. For example, the outer layer of brown rice is removed to make white rice. White bread (compared with whole grain bread) is made with wheat processed to remove the outer layers and other beneficial parts.
Foods made with refined grains, like white bread, tend to be lighter in colour and lack the hearty texture of ‘whole’ grain foods, and they usually have a load of artificial ingredients in them (like MSG’s) to make them more ‘palatable’- which is why most kids (and men!) will only eat these types of food – I like to make my own bread and use only good-quality, organic ingredients so I know exactly what my family are eating.
Most grains nowadays have been so highly ‘processed’ (or refined) that all the goodness has been removed leaving the food with little or no nutritional value (but usually loaded with additives like trans-fats, sugar, ‘E’ numbers, etc!), so they don’t really benefit your health by eating them.
Manufacturers of these products know this, and that is why, after taking the nutrients out during the refining process, (which is usually to increase the shelf-life of the product, or to make it more ‘palatable’) they put a load of artificial ones back in . . .
Ever wondered what ‘fortified’ with this, or ‘enriched’ with that is on your breakfast cereal box . . ? It’s just a decorative term the manufacturers use when they add the artificial micro-nutrients back in, to make us consumers feel that their product is good for us!
It can be over-whelming
It’s all a bit mind-boggling to think of everyone’s individual views on the subject, and the conflicting information out there. This is why it can be so easy to get confused, knowing what information to trust and ultimately what is best for you and your children’s health.
Personally, I think that my grandmothers generation had it right . . . Lots of good, hearty food, made from scratch (usually home-grown!), which had little or no pesticides, or additives, or ‘E’ numbers, or ‘fortified’ with this, or genetically modified that, etc. Kids were outdoors all day from daybreak till dusk, running around getting fresh air and lots of lovely vitamin D!
If we can go back to living a life as close to that, I don’t think we can go far wrong!
What do you think – I’d love to know!!
Jo (Munching on home-made bread!) Matthews xx 😉