Ever decided to do everything you were told to obtain better health and nothing improved, or your health grew worse? What if the medical and nutritional advice you believed to be sound turned out to actually be inaccurate or very difficult to follow?
Failing to achieve better health is common for many people diligently seeking to achieve it. This is a real health calamity in our culture! Chances are you have experienced this failure multiple times in your life, even though you did exactly what the book, or program, or physician, or trainer instructed you to do. You may have experienced temporary success, but then found it impractical or impossible—or both—to maintain your progress. This is not your fault!
In writing these blog posts, my desire is for you to come to understand what healthy day-to-day living looks like for you.
Today’s article is about whole grains.
I want you to understand what true whole grains really are, the confusing way the term “whole grain” is used in labeling, and how to include delicious, healthy, real whole grains in your diet.
When I ask people where to find “whole grains,” they usually say “bread,” or “oatmeal,” or “cereal,” or something similar because that is what they have been taught. However, most of these items do not really contain whole grains. Whole grain is the whole grain—the kernel that is still in its original form.
Cereal grains, such as wheat, oats, rice, rye, barley, millet, etc., and other grains, like buckwheat, quinoa, amaranth, chia, etc., are the actual seeds of the grass or plant they come from. They grow wrapped within a hull or husk to both protect and contain all of the nutrients the plant will need in order to grow another plant. The true whole grain is this kernel or seed.
Once the husk is ground or processed, the grain begins to lose important oils, vitamins, and minerals. Additional processing separates the important components of the kernel (remember, this kernel contains everything wholesome and essential for growing another plant) and further deteriorates the healthfulness of the grain. The final product of the grains’ processing becomes what we commonly find on the baking aisle of the grocery store—nutrient depleted flour. The majority of our foods made from grain go through this type of processing. Thus, most everything we eat made from flour has been stripped of its original nutrition and has disintegrated to the point that it prevents proper, healthful human digestion.
Food companies, knowing that flour and products made with flour, add back some vitamins and minerals to their final manufactured product. However, the vitamins are frequently in a synthetic form, the minerals usually less absorbable than those that occur naturally, and other unknown nutrients remain ignored, or nutrients impossible to replicate are skipped entirely. Once the kernel or seed is pulverized, the cat is out of the bag.
The FDA regulates food ingredients and labeling, among other things. On the FDA website, a “100% whole grain” food is defined as a food which actually must only contain 51% whole grain. This government agency has greatly contributed to the confusion in food marketing with their definition of “100% whole grain.”
Take a look at
The FDA has determined that to be labeled “whole grain,” a grain must contain the endosperm, germ, and bran in the same proportions as the original grain. This is actually quite different from what constituted the original whole grain, which contained husk, minerals, natural oils, vitamins, antioxidants, phytochemicals and numerous other natural substances.
In contrast to the FDA’s misleading definition, whole grain should be defined as the actual whole grain, not the processed, then reconstituted, parts of the whole grain.
You may be asking yourself the questions below:
What whole grains are commonly available?
How should I prepare them and do I need any special equipment?
Do I have to bake my own bread and make my own granola in order to consume whole grains?
Don’t become overwhelmed and fall into despair! Let me demonstrate how easy it is to include true whole grains in your diet.
First, get rid of 80-90% of the processed grains you are currently eating. This includes cereals, breads, pasta, chips, crackers and other foods made with processed flour. For example, get rid of food containing “enriched white wheat.” It may be easy to try to avoid anything white, but I’m encouraging you to watch out for “whole wheat” and “100% whole wheat” as well. Go to your pantry and remove these boxes and bags and place them where they belong—in the rubbish bin!
Next, pick one or two whole grains and start trying them out. Here are some suggestions. Purchase organic whole grain flour for your home baking purposes. You CAN find this at your local grocery store, usually near the bags of processed and depleted flour. Bob’s Red Mill is a reliable brand. If you wish to find other healthful brands, do a little research and look for brands of flour that have been produced using single stream processing.
Whole grain quinoa is available in almost every chain grocery store, natural food store, and numerous places online. Prepare it like rice and use it in place of rice, but cut the portion you consume by half (or more). Try wild rice in place of white rice as well. Learn to prepare steel cut oats instead of rolled or instant oats. http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/alton-brown/steel-cut-oatmeal-recipe.html You can find many other excellent recipes online Let this become a delicious regular breakfast.
Keep ground flax seed and chia seeds around and sprinkle them on your salads, vegetables or any other food you are enjoying. Chia and flax seeds add a little crunch, minimally impact the flavor of your food, and increase the fiber, protein and omega 3 oils in your diet.
Eat 1/3 cup (unpopped measurement) popcorn cooked in olive oil as a snack. It’s a whole grain! We buy Riehle’s Select popcorn online; they have all varieties of fun, wholesome, organic popcorn, from Baby Blue to Midnight Red to Pink Blossom, just to name a few.
If you love to bake and are really motivated and industrious, purchase your own electric grinder (Nutrimill makes an excellent product) and grind your own true whole grain flour. Our family likes hard red winter wheat; it makes a great all-purpose, mild tasting flour. Grind the grain and store it in the freezer and have it available whenever you bake. While this is not a choice everyone will make, it is an excellent option for those who like to create in their own kitchens and enjoy baking.
The USDA food pyramid most of us are familiar with is not based on any scientific evidence regarding a healthy human diet. When you stop to consider that 95%+ of our grains are highly processed, basing our diet on them makes absolutely no sense whatsoever. Organizing your diet according to the food pyramid is unhealthy and contributes to many chronic diseases, such as hypertension, type 2 diabetes, obesity, heart disease and numerous others.
Take a moment to study this example of a much healthier food pyramid. This is a plant-based food pyramid, with true whole grains representing a different proportion of our diet.
Learning to prepare and enjoy whole grains is an excellent way to improve your health, fuel your body naturally and enjoy the varied and delicious foods available to us in our world. Change one thing today and add true whole grains to your diet.