The food we eat is made primarily out of 5 major nutrients: carbohydrates, protein, fats and vitamin and minerals. Carbohydrates are essential to the body as they provide our body with energy. In addition, studies have linked carbohydrate foods with mood regulation. Eating carbohydrates help keep us calm! There are simple carbohydrates, such as sugar in soda and candy and complex carbohydrates as found in pasta and bread. Complex carbohydrates can be refined or unrefined. Refined carbohydrates such as white bread, white pasta and white rice have been stripped of their healthy fiber and many other key nutrients. Food manufacturers remove the outer fiber because unrefined carbohydrates last longer on the store shelf.
Unfortunately, removing the fiber from these products makes them less nutritious. Unrefined grains contain 3 major parts: the germ, the endosperm and the bran. The bran is key as it high in fiber and contains the majority of the minerals in the grain. In fact, unrefined complex carbohydrates such as brown rice, whole wheat flour, whole oats, whole grain pasta offer the body significantly more fiber, B vitamins (niacin, thiamin and riboflavin), vitamin E, magnesium, potassium, zinc, iron, selenium and iron.
Unrefined carbohydrates appear to be the best for our body not only for the many nutrients and fiber they contain. They also are absorbed by the body slower, which is essential for keeping sugar in a more even keel in the blood stream. This benefit is particularly important to people with diabetes.
Westernized countries such as North America and Europe have a greater incidence of intestinal problems likely due to their lack of unrefined whole grains in their diet. Problems such as diverticulosis, a common intestinal disorder, hemorrhoids, and colon cancer are more prevalent likely due to diets made up significantly of refined carbohydrates.
Additionally, consuming more carbohydrates with fiber (unrefined) such as whole oats and oat bran helps lower blood cholesterol. Given the fact heart disease is the number one killer in the United States, it can’t hurt to get more whole oats and oat bran in the diet!
Some general rules to follow include:
- Minimize your intake of simple and refined carbohydrates such as: sugar, white flour, white pasta, and white rice.
- Seek out and include more unrefined carbohydrates such as: brown rice, lentils, barley, peas, fruit, vegetables, whole wheat pasta, and whole grain flours.
- Try whole grains you have never tried such as: quinoa, kasha, and wild rice. Look for these foods in the bulk section of your local grocer.
Be sure every meal has a whole grain selection in it. For example, try the following:
- Start the day with whole grain toast, bagels or English muffins
- Try some delicious whole grain cereals such as Barbara’s Grain Shop, Kashi Heart to Heart, or Shredded Wheat.
- Add 1 tablespoon of wheat germ to yogurt or hot cereals such as cream of wheat or steel cut oats.
- Have a sandwich made with whole grain bread.
- Add some barley to your favorite soup recipe.
- Try lentil pilaf or wheat pilaf as a side dish.
- Incorporate 2 tablespoons of wheat germ to your favorite pumpkin or banana bread recipe.