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Top 10 Healthiest Whole Grains
Do you want to embark on a healthier lifestyle? Well, eating whole grains might be the right step for you. Since September is National Whole Grains Month, we will discuss one of the healthiest whole grains available in the market. There are many whole grains available for consumption. In this article, our focus would be on the healthiest whole grains to help us in our journey towards a healthier and better version of ourselves.
What are Whole Grains?
Before we discuss the top 10 healthiest whole grains available in the market, let us first talk about what whole grains are.
In contrast to refined grains, which maintain only the endosperm, whole grain is a grain of any cereal or pseudocereal that contains three main parts:
Bran – the hard outer shell of the grain this has a lot of antioxidants and minerals;
Endosperm – the middle layer of the whole grain, which contains carbs primarily; and,
Germ – the inner layer that includes a lot of vitamins, plant compounds, and minerals.
Compared to refined grains, whole grains are less processed, making whole grains a healthier option for people to include in their diet.
Our top 10 healthiest whole grains
Now that we understand whole grains better, let us talk about the healthiest whole grains available. Whole grains are not created equally, and some are healthier than others. If you are unsure whether your food is whole grain or not, checking the label will help you know. Listed below are the healthiest whole grains which we can include in our diet. Let’s find the best and healthiest whole grain for you!
– brown rice is one of the healthiest kinds of rice in the market. Also, brown rice not only contains tons of vitamins and minerals but is also a delicious addition to our diet. Which makes it one of the healthiest whole grains out there.
- High in fiber
Fiber is a kind of carbohydrate that our body cannot digest. Food rich in fiber includes vegetables, fruits, and whole grains.
There are two known types of fiber, soluble and insoluble fiber. Soluble fiber is a kind of fiber that attracts water and creates a gel. When this happens, water draws soluble fiber, which converts to gel during, thus slowing down digestion. Research has shown that some kinds of soluble fiber reduce the chance of cardiopathy or heart disease. While insoluble fiber helps ease digestion by adding bulk to your stool. Fiber helps stool pass easier through your digestive tract.
- Reduces the risk of obesity
According to the CDC, The US prevalence of obesity in 2017-2018 was around 42.4% in 2017 – 2018. Obesity is the excessive accumulation of fat in the body, which poses many health risks. By including brown rice in our diet, we will lower the risk of obesity because brown rice helps us become fuller for more extended periods. In addition, brown rice also contains a good amount of fiber, which will help us digest our food much easier.
- Full of Nutrients and Minerals
Brown rice also contains a lot of nutrients and minerals. Some of the most notable ones are manganese, a nutrient that helps blood to be carried more efficiently in our bodies. Another would be iron, which our body needs to be able to transport oxygen more effectively.
According to the Whole Grains Council, Quinoa is one of the six pseudo-grains. Quinoa is a pseudo-grain because it is technically not a grain. Still, it has similar vitamins and nutrients like grains and is prepared similarly. There are thousands of varieties of Quinoa in the market, but the most popular ones are red, white, and black.
Quinoa is an excellent alternative for people who want to include whole grains in their diet but are allergic to gluten or are trying to lower their gluten consumption.
- Low Glycemic Index
People who have diabetes can vastly benefit from eating Quinoa. Foods that are high in the glycemic index can increase blood sugar levels faster. Quinoa has a low glycemic index, making it a perfect alternative for people who need to control their sugar levels.
Contains Many Important Minerals
Quinoa contains numerous essential minerals. Here are a few of them:
Manganese – Helps effectively carry out blood in our body.
Iron – Is vital to helping our body to grow and develop better.
In addition, Iron helps in the production of hemoglobin in our body, which is necessary for blood production.
Copper – is essential in supporting our immune system. Copper also helps in keeping red blood cells healthy.
Barley is a cereal grain and is a member of the grass family. Part of the first cultivated grains, dating as early as 10,000 years ago, barley has many health benefits, which we will be discussing.
- Contains Beta Glucans
Beta-Glucan is a soluble fiber found in barley. According to the USDA, one cup (184g) of barley contains approximately 32 grams of fiber. Soluble fiber, which is abundant in barley, helps reduce cholesterol by reducing cholesterol absorption.
- May Lower Risk of Heart Disease
Research has shown that a healthy intake of whole grains can vastly reduce the risk of heart diseases. By adding barley to your diet, you are reducing the chances of getting heart diseases.
- Can Aid in Weight Loss
Barley has a high fiber content which helps aid the body in digesting food. A diet rich in fiber has also helped keep the body fuller for a more extended period. Compared to other whole grains, barley contains lower calories, making it perfect for people on a low-calorie diet.
4. Whole Oats
Oats are arguably one of the healthiest whole grains to include in your diet. Naturally gluten-free, it is full of essential nutrients and vitamins, which help our body stay healthy.
- High in Fiber
As we have discussed before, fiber is an essential addition to our diet. Oats contain beta-glucans which is a kind of soluble fiber that helps nutrient absorption and aid digestion.
- Packed with various vitamins and minerals
Whole oats contain various vitamins and minerals. Here are a few of the vitamins and minerals that are present in whole oats:
Copper – which helps keep our immune system healthy.
Vitamin B1 – or Thiamine, helps our body convert the food that we eat into energy.
Manganese – is an essential nutrient which aids our body in processing protein, carbohydrates, and cholesterol.
Phosphorus – which helps keeps our bones and teeth healthy and strong.
Iron – is vital in helping transport oxygen to our body.
- Rich in Antioxidants
Oats contain many antioxidants; the most notable one is avenanthramide. Research has shown that avenanthramide-rich foods contain anti-inflammatory properties. This antioxidant can also lower blood pressure and reduce inflammation.
A quick reminder to remember when choosing oats at the grocery is that oats are not equal. Look for rolled oats or steel-cut oats as they are less processed.
Corn, a staple food globally, is grown more than other whole grains such as wheat and rice. Also, Corn or maize is a cereal grain that Indigenous people of South Mexico first domesticated around 10,000 years ago. According to the USDA, Corn may either be a grain or a vegetable, depending on when harvested. In fact, Corn is whole grain when harvested at full maturity. While it is a vegetable when harvested while still soft.
- High in Fiber
Fiber helps our body become full for more extended periods and time and allows our bodies to digest food faster.
- Good Source of Vitamins and Minerals
Corn contains various vitamins and minerals including, magnesium, phosphorus, copper, potassium, manganese, Vitamin B6, and is naturally gluten-free.
- Contains Antioxidants Lutein and Zeaxanthin
Lutein and Zeaxanthin are antioxidants that give corn its natural yellow pigment. These antioxidants help our body protect itself against unstable molecules called free radicals. Too many free radicals in our body would result in cell damage which can later progress to heart disease or cancer.
According to a study made by Joan E. Roberts and Jessica Dennison, another benefit of these antioxidants is that they lower the risk of macular degeneration and cataracts, the two leading causes of blindness.
6. Whole Wheat Products
Easily accessible, whole wheat is one of the most common whole grains out in the market.
Ensure that when buying whole wheat products, the label expressly states “100% Whole Wheat.”
Whole wheat products include pasta, bread, and flour, to name a few. They have a lot of health benefits, and here are some of the following:
- High in Fiber
Foods high in fiber help our body stay strong and healthy. It also helps ease digestion and maintain healthy body weight.
- May Reduce the Risk of Type 2 Diabetes
Whole grains, including whole wheat products, contain a mineral called magnesium. Magnesium has many health benefits, including helping our body maintain normal blood pressure and keep our bones healthy and strong.
Research has also shown that people who can get the recommended daily magnesium intake have reduced the risk of Type 2 Diabetes.
- May help prevent Gallstones
As we have discussed earlier, fiber appears in two forms; soluble and insoluble. Whole wheat products like cereals and pasta contain high amounts of insoluble fiber. Studies show that insoluble fiber gained more protection against the risk of gallstones.
Researchers believe this is because insoluble dietary fiber helps speed intestinal transit time. Intestinal transit time is the time it takes for your food to travel from your mouth to the end of your intestine.
Buckwheat or common buckwheat is a type of pseudocereal. Plants that produce fruits or seeds that are used and consumed like grains are known as pseudocereals. There are two main kinds of buckwheat; Common buckwheat, also known as Fagopyrum esculentum, and Tartary buckwheat, also known as Fagopyrum tartaricum. People who have celiac disease or those under a gluten-free diet will surely love this whole grain.
In addition, Buckwheat has many health benefits that will surely make adding it to your diet worthwhile.
- High in Protein
Buckwheat is high in protein. Protein is essential to include in our diet since it helps our body to maintain and repair tissues. Not only that, but protein is also necessary for people who want to gain muscle.
- Contains Essential Vitamins and Minerals
Also, Buckwheat includes Vitamin B1, which keeps our nervous system healthy. Buckwheat also contains Vitamin C, a vitamin necessary to maintain a healthy immune system, and Vitamin E, which supports the proper functions of many organs in our body.
Compared to other whole grains, buckwheat has higher minerals like manganese, zinc, and copper.
Buckwheat is also easy to incorporate into our diet. Similarly, Buckwheat groats, which you can purchase easily, are the hulled seeds of the buckwheat plant. You can easily make a porridge out of buckwheat groats and add a splash of the milk of your choice, and you’re done!
Amaranth is another member of the six pseudocereals, along with Quinoa. According to an article published by the Whole Grains Council, Amaranth is a complete protein comprising all nine essential amino acids. Amaranth also contains nearly double the amount of protein found in rice and corn at 14%.
Researchers in Guatemala have discovered that it is one of the most nutrient-dense plant proteins. Guatemalan researchers discovered it to be one of the most nutrient-dense plant proteins. The benefits of amaranth protein don’t end there; it also contains lunasin, a peptide found to have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anti-cancer characteristics.
Sorghum is a whole grain that not a lot of people know. It is an ancient cereal grain that belongs to the grass family Poaceae. Although commonly used in North America for livestock feed, Sorghum is slowly gaining popularity. Not surprising since Sorghum contains an abundance of essential vitamins and minerals.
In fact, Sorghum is an excellent alternative for people on a gluten-free diet. When looking for Sorghum at your local market, always check if it includes a label of “Gluten-Free.”
- Rich in Antioxidants
Also, Sorghum contains a lot of antioxidants; the most notable ones would be phenolic compounds. These are antioxidants that have anti-inflammatory, anti-aging and may reduce the risk of cancer.
An easy way to incorporate Sorghum into your diet is by substituting the flour you usually use with Sorghum flour.
Finally on our list of the top 10 healthiest whole grains is Bulgur. It is a cereal produced from cracked parboiled groats of different wheat species, most commonly durum wheat. Bulgur originates from the Middle East and is a staple in many of their dishes. A whole grain that contains a good amount of fiber, vitamins, and minerals, Bulgur is a great whole grain to include in your diet.
It is an easy grain to cook, usually taking 10-12 minutes. You can include it in your breakfast by making Bulgur porridge; in your lunch as a Bulgur lunch bowl and as a side dish for your dinner.
Choosing from among the top 10 healthiest whole grains
There are a lot of whole grains available in the market. It is always a good thing to remember that you do not need to buy all the whole grains listed above. The key is to keep in mind that the healthiest whole grains should be the ones that you will not have a problem incorporating into your diet.
Each step toward better food choices makes another leap toward a healthier you!
Learn more about the benefits of our top 10 healthiest whole grains
- Whole grains provide a good source of magnesium. This mineral is used by over 300 enzyme systems in our bodies. Studies show it helps heart health, brain health, and bone health.
- Our bodies absorb whole grains much more slowly than refined (also known as processed) grains. This helps avoid spikes in insulin and blood sugar. Yes, diabetics enjoy whole grains!
- A recent study showed that eating at least three servings of whole grains daily leads to an amazing 20% less likelihood of early death. The study compared the three servings a day to people eating less than one serving per day.
- The same study showed a remarkable difference in cancer and heart disease, too. This amounted to a 14% lower risk of death from cancer and a 25% lower risk of death from heart disease.
- The COA indicates that the low glycemic index in whole grains helps to reduce the risk for age-related macular degeneration. It’s known that the Vitamin E, zinc, and niacin in whole grains also help promote good eye health.
- Whole grains help promote weight loss, too. They make a person feel fuller, thus causing them to eat less. Fewer calorie consumption often leads to weight loss.