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The Health Benefits of Whole Grains

Updated: Mar 23, 2022

Aimee Jones explores the health benefits of whole grains and how they can support a healthy diet

Whole grains have been found to be extremely beneficial for our health. There has been significant research into these benefits, leading to whole grains becoming a popular food choice when it comes to healthy eating.

But what are whole grains? Where can we find them? And what exactly are their significant health benefits?

Whole grains are made up of three main components:

  • The Outer Layer (Bran): this layer is rich in fibre and contains important nutrients such as B vitamins, copper, iron, magnesium, zinc, antioxidants, and phytochemicals. Phytochemicals are known for helping to prevent diseases, as well as helping to protect cells from damage that can lead to cancer.

  • The Core (Germ): this is the component of the grain that harbours growth. It is rich in healthy fats, vitamins E and B, as well as more antioxidants and phytochemicals.

  • The Interior Layer (Endosperm): this interior layer is a source of carbohydrates and protein, including more vitamin B and minerals.

The Verdict

Bran and fibre have some important benefits of their own. They can help slow down the process of turning starch into glucose, which helps to maintain a healthy blood sugar level and minimises the risk of high sugar spikes. Fibre is also known for helping the digestive system in helping lower cholesterol levels.

Whole grains can be found in many different foods. Some of the most popular alternatives include:

  • Oatmeal

  • Quinoa

  • Brown rice

  • Wild rice

  • Whole grain corn

  • Popcorn

  • Whole rye

After looking at ten different studies, it was found that having just 28 grams of whole grain per day within your diet can significantly lower your risk of heart disease by up to 22%.

A further review looked at 6 studies of over 250,000 people. It was found that people who consume more whole grains are 14% less likely to suffer from a stroke, compared to non-consumers. Other research suggests that eating whole grains regularly, as part of a low-fat and well-balanced diet, can reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes by up to 30% and can also aid in maintaining a healthy weight.

Making the Switch

While whole grains have many health benefits, they may not be the best choice for everyone. Some grains, such as wheat, may also harm those who suffer from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), as they are high in short-chain carbohydrates and are known for exacerbating IBS symptoms.

What’s more, some individuals have an intolerance or an allergy to gluten that can be found in some grains (wheat, barley, and rye being the most common). There are other sources of whole grains that may be more suitable for intolerant individuals; buckwheat, rice, and oats, for example, are appropriate for people who have celiac disease or gluten sensitivity.

Nonetheless, how can we incorporate more whole grain alternatives into our diet? Individuals can choose to snack on air-popped popcorn, as 3 cups of popcorn contain 3.5 grams of fibre at just 95 calories per serving. Other snacks might include whole grain crackers, oat biscuits with hummus, whole grain protein bars or breakfast bars, and rice cakes.

Making small changes, such as changing white rice for brown rice, quinoa, or barley, can be extremely beneficial for your health, as well as choosing whole grain pasta and bread alternatives. Indeed, switching to whole grain products compared to refined grains can significantly improve one's health and is a step towards consumers being more conscious about their diet.


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