The majority of people will have heard that whole grain foods are better for you than those which use processed grains, but what actual benefits does whole grain have over anything else?
Well the first point to make is that whole grain foods almost always contain a lot less sugar, something which we touched on in last month’s article, ‘How bad is sugar?’. This helps to lower the risk of Type 2 diabetes and many other potential nasty diseases and conditions.
But aside from this, there are plenty of health benefits which are important for those who are training for weight loss, health and well-being or even training to compete in swimming and aquatic sports.
There are plenty of health benefits which are important for those who compete or train in swimming and the aquatic sports.
Whole grains contain every part of the kernel, bran, germ and the endosperm in the same proportions in which they grow. In refined/processed grains, the bran and germ are removed leaving just the endosperm, so most of the good fibre and vitamins are gone.
The importance of fibre
One of the main reasons to eat whole grains is their fibre content. The recommended amount for an adult is between 25-35 grams of fibre a day and eating whole grains provides two different types of fibre, both of them are beneficial to your health.
Whole grains contain a much higher level of fibre than refined grains. For instance, if you eat two slices of rye bread, you will consume 5.8 grams of fibre, rather than white bread which has just under 2 grams.
Because it is slower to digest, fibre also helps to keep you feeling fuller for longer. The best grains to go for to get the most amount of fibre are things like oats, barley and bulgur wheat.
Whole grain helps to keep your heart healthy
Whole grains can help to stop your body from absorbing bad cholesterol, and in fact also have shown to lower triglycerides, both of which are serious contributors to heart disease. It is thought that whole grains lowed the risk of heart disease generally.
Whole grains have also been found to lower blood pressure, which is another major risk factor when it comes to heart disease. One study showed a 19% lower risk in men who ate wholegrain cereals every day of the week.
Whole grain can help with weight loss
While whole grains might not directly make the weight start to drop off you, people who consume whole grains regularly are more likely to keep their weight in check. This is probably because eating whole grains over refined grains will leave you feeling fuller for longer, because the fibre is slower to digest.
Studies have shown that whole grains help to cut down the amount of body fat you have.
Studies have also shown that whole grains also help to cut down the amount of body fat you have and lead to a healthier distribution of fat. This will stop you from getting a high distribution of belly fat or ‘central adiposity’ which in turn lowers the risk of Type 2 diabetes. The best grains for helping you to feel full are rye and quinoa.
Lower the risk of Type 2 diabetes
Whole grain foods have a lot less sugar in them than refined foods. As we mentioned in our sugar article last month, two slices of white bread contains the same sugar content as four tablespoons of natural cane sugar.
Switching from refined to whole grain will reduce the chance of having a spike in blood glucose significantly. One study showed that having three or more servings of whole grains a day can reduce the risk of Type 2 diabetes by 32%. Fibre better controls the rise in blood sugars and minimises insulin release, the anabolic hormone responsible for storing fat.
Whole grains are great complex carbs
Carbohydrates are great because they give you quick energy, things like fruit, milk and vegetables have carbohydrates in the form of sugars, which do just this. However if you have too many simple carbohydrates, the sugars are stored rather than being burned off. The increased blood glucose forces the release of insulin.
High glycaemic foods which contain sugars trigger the release of insulin and activate the negative effects insulin has on the body and this results in fat storage. The glucose that is absorbed into the blood stream causes a rapid secretion of insulin (an insulin spike) which triggers a rapid demand and storage of glucose by the muscles, adipose tissue (fat) and the liver, as well as other tissues of the body.
This is why complex carbohydrates like whole grains are very important.
Starch and fibre are both complex carbohydrates and are both found in many types of grain. Resistant starch is the best kind of carb for helping you feel full, losing weight and keeping your insulin and blood sugar in check. You want around 10-15 grams of resistant starch each day, alongside the recommended fibre amount.
Oatmeal, pearl barley and brown rice are great sources of resistant starch. Carbohydrates should really make up around 35% of your diet, so try not to overload yourself with carbs. Check out our carbo-loading story for more information.