Statistics tell us that the average American eats only one half of a serving of whole grains daily, although the current recommendation is to eat at least three servings per day. Some people consume predominant whole grains, so this means that many people are only rarely or not ever eating whole grains.
Unfortunately, when many people think of whole grains they think only of whole wheat. That one is great, but there are many more choices available. Several may even have more nutrients than whole wheat. Examples of other grains include oats, barley, millet, rye, brown rice, corn (maize), buckwheat, and amaranth.
So what exactly is a “whole” grain, anyway? Whole grains can be defined as having all three parts of the kernel included. Refined grains, such as white flour, are made up of the endosperm, which is mainly starch. The kernel also contains a germ and the bran. These two layers are loaded with nutrients, including vitamin E, several B vitamins, and some important minerals, including zinc, magnesium, manganese, chro-mium, selenium, and molybdenum. During the refining process these nutrient-rich layers are lost. Fiber is also lost.
“But aren’t whole grains enriched?” one might ask. Yes, but imagine for example that you had a $20 bill in your hand that some guy snatched from you. He takes your money, but then feels guilty, so he walks back and hands you $5. You have now been “enriched.” Wow! Don’t you feel great? That’s what happens with grains. Refined grains are robbers-robbing you of good nutrition. Instead of getting 20 nutrients from the whole grain, you are getting only five–specifically thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, folate, and iron. Why settle for $5 when you could have $20?
Besides all the vitamins and minerals that whole grains provide, research has shown that whole grains also provide protection against a number of diseases, including cancer, diabetes, and heart disease. This protection, in part, is because of the presence of phytochemicals, or plant chemicals that are often beneficial to our bodies. A large number of phytochemicals are present in whole grains that are lost with refining. In fact, there are 200 to 300 times more phytochemicals in whole-grain flours than in refined flours. The benefits of whole foods are numerous.
There are many ways to increase whole-grain consumption. For instance, add barley to soups; try whole-wheat pasta or brown rice; millet or oatmeal for breakfast; whole-wheat bread, pancakes, muffins, and waffles; oatmeal patties or other oatmeal entrées; and choose whole-oat, rice, or wheat dry cereals. The options are endless.
Whatever grains you decide to try, aim for variety. And of course, try to include at least three servings of whole grains in your diet daily–although even more is better. Last of all, be creative in your menu planning. Use a wide variety of whole grains. Know that you are feeding your body with good nutrition for a healthy, long life.
As I Corinthians 10:31 says, “Whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God” (NIV)* Feed your body for God, and do it from the vast array of good food He has provided. Here are a few recipes to get you started.
* Texts credited to NIV are from the Holy Bible, New International Version. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.