2014

The Power of Good

Power of Good Health Monthly Column

What Could be Lurking in your Favorite Café Snacks…

Whole grains are sources of carbohydrates. There is a lot of concern about carbohydrate-laden diets. Obesity, Metabolic Syndrome, heart disease, diabetes, premature aging, and premature death are all associated with consistently eating large amounts of processed carbohydrates.

However, whole grains are “complex carbohydrates,” containing the entire grain: the bran layer, endosperm, and germ. Besides their carbohydrate component, whole grains contain protein, fat, fiber, vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients as well.1

High fiber content is an important advantage of whole grains. Nutritionists generally agree that dietary fiber helps reduce the incidence of diabetes, irritable bowel disease, colon and rectal cancers, and hemorrhoids. High fiber content also helps maintain vascular health and low cholesterol levels, preventing heart disease.2

Cooked whole grains are not considered “processed”. They send glucose into the bloodstream slowly. In this way, both glucose and insulin remain at healthy levels. One could become overweight from overeating whole grains, but insulin resistance and diabetes are unlikely. Sugary, starchy foods such as chips, fries, cookies, and sodas have high Glycemic Index Values, meaning the sugars and starches in these foods are rapidly turned to glucose. In brief, high blood sugar levels lead to high blood insulin levels and ultimately, insulin resistance.

The basis of the index is a comparison of carbohydrates in foods with either blood glucose itself or white bread. In both cases, 100 is the standard.3 For more information about specific foods, try glycemicindex.com.

Cooking grains: Prepare whole grains ahead of time. Using a pan with a tight fitting lid, bring water to a boil, add the grain, and stir. Return the lid, bring back to boiling for 5-10 minutes. Turn off the heat and let the grain sit.

Sit overnight and the grain will be cooked by morning. After preparation, they may be refrigerated for use during the week. They do not freeze well.

Raw whole grains can be stored in dry, cool conditions for about a year. (Flours should be used within several months of purchase. Their vitamin E content dissipates in about five days.) A half cup (100 grams) of most raw grains ranges between 340-389 calories. The caloric difference in a cooked serving depends on the amount of water used for cooking. Greater amounts of water equal fewer calories – and less sustenance. Most grains are cooked with double the volume of water to grain.

Although most people tolerate grains well, for others some grains can be dangerous.4 Celiac disease describes a dangerous sensitivity to gluten, which can damage the lining of the small intestine when gluten is eaten. In addition, many people are simply allergic to wheat.

There are lots of gluten-free grains besides wheat.

Gluten free grains include: quinoa, corn, millet, buckwheat (not a wheat), sorghum, amaranth, montina, teff, and wild rice. Most people can also tolerate brown and white rice (glutenfreenetwork.com).

Footnotes:
1 One of these is lignin, a group of compounds with anti-tumor and antioxidant properties. Lignin is related to cellulose. It helps form the cell walls of plants and joins them together. Second only to cellulose, lignin is one of the most abundant organic polymers on Earth.
2 More in depth coverage of fiber is discussed in Nutrition News, “Nature Calls!”.
3 In Australia, food manufacturers are encouraged to label their products with glycemic index symbols, indicating a placement of low, medium, or high. With the increase in obesity and diabetes in the USA, such a labeling procedure should be mandatory.
4 See Nutrition News, “Go Gluten Free!” for details.

Siri Khalsa is the editor of Nutrition News, and she has been writing for the publication for many years. She has the passion and dedication to educate readers on the health benefits on tea and coffee.

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