Going With the Grain

I am often surprised that carbohydrates still have a bad reputation and low-carb diets are still popular.

The reason I am surprised is because carbohydrates can be eaten as part of a healthy diet.

Yes, some carbohydrates have more nutrients than others, but that doesn’t mean that you need to cut all carbs from your diet.

It is more beneficial for our health to choose whole grains over highly processed carbohydrates on a regular basis. However, having the odd bit of baking made with refined white flour it isn’t going to cause irreparable damage to your health.

So let’s talk about why you need whole grains in your life.

Well, first off – they are tasty!

They tend to have more flavour than refined grains, simply because there is more to them. Think about the difference between brown and white rice; brown rice has a nutty flavour and a chewier texture. Though white rice is great if you have a tasty sauce that needs soaking up and you simply want to savour the sauce flavours.

Then of course there are all the nutrients that are found in whole grains.

Whole grain kernels are made up of 3 parts:

1. Bran – the fibre-rich outer layer that contains B vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and phytochemicals (natural plant chemicals that promote good health).

2. Germ – the core, which is where a new plant grows from if you plant it; it contains healthy fats, vitamin E, B vitamins and phytochemicals.

3. Endosperm – the main part of the grain, made up mostly of starchy carbohydrate with a little bit of protein, and some vitamins and minerals.

Whole grain foods contain all 3 layers; while refined grains have had the bran and germ removed during processing, so have a lot less nutrients.

Carbohydrates are an important source of energy for our body and brain, and there are 2 main types:

1. Complex carbohydrates are nutrient dense and are slow to digest and turn into energy, so provide a slow and steady supply of energy. Found in whole grain breads, brown rice, pasta, vegetables and legumes. We are recommended to eat several servings daily.

2. Simple carbohydrates don’t have many nutrients beyond the carbohydrate. They are easily digested and the energy used quickly. Found mostly in sweet tasty treats. It is recommended that we only eat these occasionally and in small quantities – but that doesn’t mean excluding them completely.

There is no scientific evidence that recommends cutting out all carbohydrates from your diet.

There is no single food that has the power to improve or ruin our health – it is our overall diet. So long as you are choosing mostly whole grains, then the odd piece of cake or biscuits with your cuppa will likely cause little more than a smile of contentment.