Why in the world would someone take whole wheat grain, crack the grain, pulverize it with rollers, and separate the endosperm from the dark, fibrous bran and the wheat embryo? Why would they take out important nutrients, vitamins, unsaturated fats, fiber and magnesium? And if intact grains are so healthy, why did we stop eating them and shift to highly refined grains? Especially when study after study has shown the ill effects of white, refined grains on our health?
White flour was a novelty for the upper classes. When rollers where introduced in the early 19th century in the milling process, that is when everything changed. Before roller milling was introduced, “white” flour was very expensive and only affordable to the wealthy. The poor used what we would call whole wheat flour today and the truly poor could only afford rye or barley flour. Once roller mills made it more affordable, white flour’s popularity exploded and everyone felt wealthy to have it. The fact that you could take this brown, grainy flour and “purify” it also helped make bread and cakes lighter, airier and fluffier. Buying white flour became a status symbol. White flour can also survive longer without refrigeration and as all processed foods, has a longer shelf-life. What is good for business and sales isn’t necessarily what is good for our health. The damage we have done to ourselves in the process has been severe.
Whole grains protect against diabetes. According to two large ongoing studies, people who consume whole grains are 30% less likely to develop diabetes. Because whole grains take longer to digest, you don’t get repeated insulin spikes, which lead to Type II diabetes.
Intact grains mean less heart disease. Also according to a large study, women who consume more whole grains were 30% less likely to develop heart disease than those who consumed refined grains.
Less refined grains mean better GI health. The fiber in whole grains helps keep the stool soft and bulky. This prevents constipation, which is the number one gastrointestinal complaint in the United States. 725 million dollars is spent annually on over-the-counter laxatives. Whole grains also help to prevent diverticulitis and diverticulosis.
Whole grains may prevent cancer. A recent overview of 40 control studies indicated that whole-grain consumption reduced the chances of developing mouth, stomach, colon, gallbladder and ovarian cancer.
A very recent study found a troubling link between higher consumption of white rice and Type 2 diabetes, a disease that in some countries is becoming an epidemic. “What we’ve found is white rice is likely to increase the risk of Type 2 diabetes, especially at high consumption levels such as in Asian populations,” according to Qi Sun of the Harvard School of Public Health .”But at the same time people should pay close attention to the other things they eat.”It’s very important to address not just a single food but the whole pattern of consumption.”
In the British Medical Journal (BMJ), Sun’s team said the link emerged from an analysis of four previously published studies, carried out in China, Japan, Australia and the United States. These studies followed 350,000 people over a timescale from four to 22 years. More than 13,000 people developed Type 2 diabetes. In the studies carried out in China and Japan, those who ate most rice were 55 percent likelier to develop the disease than those who ate the least. In the United States and Australia, where consumption of rice is far lower, the difference was 12 percent.
Be sure the products you are buying are truly whole-grain. Often, breads are brown in color, but are made with white processed flour. Check the ingredients carefully to be sure. If the taste of a whole-grain food like pasta or brown rice isn’t palatable to you, begin by mixing it with the white refined version and slowly increasing the ratio of intact grains to refined grains. Speak to people who have made the switch. Once they reacquire their taste-buds and get used to whole grain products, it is difficult to return to the white flour products and some even refer to the taste and texture similar of the white stuff like eating cardboard. Remember – the more any food is processed, the more nutrients, minerals and vitamins are lost.
Whereas at one time, you could only find whole wheat, whole rye, brown rice and whole grain pasta in health food stores, now they are available just about everywhere. According to the USDA, only 1% of ingested food in the United States is unrefined as opposed to 20% for refined grains. Studies suggest that the more this ratio changes in favor of whole grains, the less disease there will be. Once you make the change, you will realize how much natural flavor and taste are in whole grains and you may never want that piece of white bread again.
Whether it is pasta, bread, rice, couscous or any other grain, eating whole, unrefined grains is another way to “add hours to your day, days to your year and years to your life.”
Alan Freishtat is an A.C.E. CERTIFIED PERSONAL TRAINER and a LIFESTYLE FITNESS COACH with over 16 years of professional experience. He is the co-director of the Jerusalem-based weight loss and stress reduction center Lose It! along with Linda Holtz M.Sc. and is available for private consultations, assessments and personalized workout programs. Alan also lectures and gives seminars and workshops. He can be reached at 02-651-8502 or 050-555-7175, or by email at [email protected] www.loseit.co.il USA Line 1-516-568-5027
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