Whole grains are simply the entire kernel that comes from plant grains such as wheat, oats, rye, and quinoa. For most of all of time, people have eaten only the whole grain. Until the end of the 19th century. That's when the milling technique was developed to strip away the bran and germ and produce refined flours (post 1/17/11.)
Whole grains are packed with fiber, B vitamins, vitamin E, minerals, antioxidants, phytochemicals, and most likely many things that have yet to be identified that are important for health. Processed grains produce refined flours that have lost almost all of the fiber found in the bran, 90% of the vitamin E (germ), and over half of the B vitamins (also found in the germ.) The resulting refined flour is a source of starchy carbohydrate, and that's all.
Eating Whole Grains:
- Reduces risk of constipation and diverticulosis. The bran is insoluble fiber that helps push waste through the digestive tract easier and quicker. This reduces pressure inside the intestines and results in less constipation. Australia recently tested an ad campaign to encourage the consumption of whole grain bread: "Bread, it's a great way to go!" In 4 months, the populations that were targeted had a 58% increase in whole grain bread sales and a 49% decrease in the sale of laxatives. Fantastic results! Data from the Iowa Women's Health study indicates that women eating more whole grains lowered the risk of developing diverticulosis, and another study found that men eating over 32 grams of fiber daily were much less likely to have diverticular disease than those eating less that 13.
- Lowers the risk of type 2 diabetes. Many studies have concluded that eating 2-3 servings of whole grains each day reduces the likelihood of developing type 2 diabetes.
- Decreases the risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD,) heart attack, and stroke. Eating more whole grains appears to reduce some risks factors for CVD: total cholesterol, LDL, triglycerides and insulin. Studies conclude that people who eat at least 2-3 servings each day are much more likely not to have CVD. One study notes that people who ate fewer than 2 servings of whole grain each week were more likely to experience CVD.
- Do whole grains reduce the risk of cancer? In animals, researchers have found increasing intake of wheat bran decreases colon cancer. So far, human studies have come in with mixed results. One study found that eating the whole grains--not just refined flour with added fiber--seemed to give a moderate protection against colorectal cancer. More long term studies need to be done.