There seems to be more confusion than ever about grains. I get asked often – “Are grains healthy for me?”, “How much grains should I have in my diet?”, “Should I eliminate grains from my diet?”. These are all great questions and there’s still lots of differing opinions among health professionals. Unfortunately, the health industry has demonized wheat, then gluten, and are now doing the same with all other grains. It’s no wonder there’s so much confusion about grains, so let’s dive right in to see if we can find out what’s best for you.
First of all, ‘grains’ is a very broad term that can encompass several different types of foods. Grains can be eaten on their own, or they can be used to produce flours, breads, cereals, pastas, crackers, and baked goods. With any of these types of grain-containing foods, they can use “whole grains” or “refined grains”. What’s the difference between these two?
“Whole grains” contain all the parts of the grain – the bran, the germ, and the endosperm.
The Bran – contains lots of antioxidants, B-vitamins, and fibre.
The Germ – contains B-vitamins, minerals, healthy fats, and some protein.
The Endosperm – high in carbohydrates and contains some protein.
“Refined grains” refers to grains that have had one or more parts of the grain removed. For example, white flour and white rice have had the bran and the germ removed, leaving only the endosperm. As you can see, if these parts are removed, “refined grains” are left with very high carbohydrate content as well as much lower amounts of fibre, protein, vitamins, and minerals.
With that said, I think we can safely say that in order to follow a healthy diet, we should be avoiding all “refined grains”. “Refined grains” will provide very little nutrients, much lower fibre, and much higher levels of carbohydrate. Now what about “whole grains”?
In my opinion, how we decide to use/consume “whole grains” really depends on each person and their health goals. I’ll elaborate on this below:
– If you generally notice that you do not digest certain grains well or that certain grains cause digestive or other symptoms when consumed, it would be wise to completely avoid these grains.
– If we’ve run a food sensitivity blood test and the results have shown that one or more grains are ‘highly reactive’ food sensitivities for you, it would also be best to avoid those grains identified.
– If you have been diagnosed with a medical condition where a grain (i.e. gluten) has been implicated as a possible cause or trigger for this condition, you can also do a trial run of eliminating this grain to see if your condition improves.
– If your main goal is weight loss, you do not need to eliminate grains. Since grains contain a higher amount of carbohydrates, you will still want to limit your grain intake to help with weight loss; however, it’s not necessary to eliminate grains for weight loss. If you choose to follow a “grain-free” diet, this can be quite effective for weight loss, but we should also consider that these diets will likely not be followed long-term, and there can be side effects from these diets that should be monitored by a naturopathic doctor or other healthcare professional.
– If you do not fall into one of these categories above, then you should include “whole grains” as part of your healthy diet. As mentioned previously, “whole grains” will provide you with many vitamins, minerals, fibre, protein, and carbohydrates to fuel your cells and nourish your body. Remember to check food labels to make sure the food is made with “whole grains”.
Yours in health,
Dr. Michael Morsillo, H.B.Sc., N.D.
Newmarket Naturopathic Doctor
16655 Yonge Street, Newmarket, ON
905-898-1844 ext. 135