Tuesday, March 17, 2009

WFMW ~ Whole Grains

This past week with our company here we had fun visiting some about healthy eating. In our visiting the question came up: "Are whole grains actually better than processed for avoiding obesity?"
I maintained they were but was having trouble providing good facts to back up what I believed. So that meant I needed to do some research.

Here is what I found in a nutshell:

“Eating whole grains in place of bakery products, rice, and pasta lowers high cholesterol, lowers high blood pressure, reduces body weight…and lowers insulin level,” says an article from the Framingham Study published in American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

On the other hand we know that highly processed grains (white flour, white rice, white pastas, etc.) requires more insulin to manage it because it automatically turns into sugar. This causes high insulin levels which do a lot of dangerous things.

High insulin levels stimulate the hypothalamus in the brain which makes you hungry. It also constricts arteries to cause heart attacks. High levels of insulin also stimulates your liver to manufacture fat. Over time, the pancreas gets so overworked that insulin production grinds to a halt, and hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) or diabetes sets in.

The other way that whole grains can help is that because they are a complex carbohydrate they break down much slower and keep you full longer making it so you don't want to eat again so quickly. This is very different from the white flour which will give that fast sugar high that gives you the quick energy but them plummets very quickly and leaves you hungry.

Overall if you are wanting to lose weight or just not gain weight it looks like eating whole grains would give you a great advantage (besides all the benefits in other ways such as the high fiber that keeps you "cleaned" out and in that prevents many diseases, and all the vitamins that you get).

So now the question is: "how can I begin adding them to my diet?" When that is new it can feel pretty overwhelming but if you just take it a couple steps at a time it doesn't have to be.

Grains include wheat, corn, rice, oats, barley, quinoa, sorghum, spelt and rye. When grains are harvested they have 3 parts: the germ, endosperm and bran. When grains are processed, the germ and bran are often taken away leaving only the endosperm. With this you lose many important nutrients. To qualify as a whole grain all three parts of the original seed need to be included.

The easiest way to include whole grains is to substitute whole grain flour (probably primarily whole wheat flour but also flours made from the other grains) for white flour in all your baking. When you are just starting out I would recommend just adding part whole wheat and part white until you can get adjusted and then moving to more and more whole wheat. The way to get the best flour is by having your own grain grinder as you can be sure it is fresh and full of vitamins and that it hasn't gotten rancid sitting on the shelf. A grain grinder is definitely an investment as they don't just cost a few dollars but I do believe they are worth it.

If you don't have a grain grinder what can you do?
  • Use a lot of oatmeal. Eat it for breakfast, add it to all your baked goods (you can use your blender to make it into flour if you don't want the big chunks). You can also make some yummy granola bars.
  • Start using brown rice instead of white. Now this does taste different and a lot of people find it takes some getting used to but I think if you go into it with an open mind you will discover it has more flavor and begin to really enjoy it as we do.
  • When you buy bread be sure to get ones that say "100% whole grains".
  • Eat popcorn for snacks. (But I don't recommend the microwave popcorn with lots of chemicals.)
  • Add Barley, brown rice or quinoa to soups and stews.
  • This little article says you can grind dry grains in your blender. But I have read elsewhere that that isn't the best idea. I guess it would depend on how sturdy your blender is.
  • However I was talking to a friend who makes blender pancakes and other things like that by putting the whole grain plus the liquid into the blender and grinding the grain while the liquid is in there which I believe makes it easier on the machine. Here is the recipe that she mentioned complete with pictures (click on the pictures to get instructions).
  • Make sprouts from grain and add them to your bread. My sister Anna told me about this site.

I would love to hear how you incorporate whole grains in your diet. Also if you have any questions feel free to ask them in the comments or e-mail me. If I don't already know that answer then it will be a good excuse to do some more research.

Using whole grains really works for me, not only do we enjoy them but they help us maintain a healthy lifestyle.


Hannah said...

Great tips! We do a lot of these things: we eat a lot of oatmeal, I usually add oats to baked goods in place of some flour, and it's always brown rice around here. Such simple things to do, and the health advantage is significant!

Donna said...

Great post!

I smuggle oats and ground flax in lots of things!
If you don't have a mill, King Arthur is an excellent flour you can pick up at the grocery store; just store it in the freezer.

You can also buy these $20 coffee grinders that work perfectly for grinding small amounts of grains if you can't get a mill.They sell them at Walmart and just about anywhere. ;-)

Abbi said...

Thanks for stopping by. It is fun to hear from other mothers that are trying to feed their families healthfully.

Thanks for sharing about the coffee grinders, that could make getting a grinder much more reasonable.

All in a Day said...

I was pregnant with Melissa when I first started the whole grains. I would use 1/4 cup in my bread recipe and gradually increased it so nobody complained (or really seemed to notice.) Now we use 100% whole wheat and think nothing of it. I did, however, just buy 25# of white flour at a really cheap price at Sam's last month. I have yet to open it, but Tracy and I have found that things without the whole grains tend to not "have anything there," if that makes sense. ;)


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