This article provides whole grains examples, and explains why eating whole grains instead of refined grains is probably the most important step towards healthy eating habits.
Why whole grains are much healthier than refined grains
Anatomy of a grain
Whole grains are made of three parts: the bran, the endosperm and the germ.
The bran is the external part, the germ is the sprouting part of the seed, and the endosperm is the bigger part of the grain, accounting for most of the total weight. Carbohydrates are mostly present in the endosperm as starches. In the picture below you can see a visual simplification to show how the nutrients composition vary with the refinement process of the grain.
In a nutshell, refining the grain consists in taking all the good healthy nutrients from it and throwing them away. Apart from the starch, most of the good healthy nutrients like proteins, lipids, fiber, vitamins, minerals and polyphenols are in the bran and in the germ. So, what remains is a white product that is poorer from a nutritional standpoint but richer from a marketing and sales standpoint.
Loss of nutrients in refined grains vs whole grains
One example of a refined grain product is white wheat flour, which is the flour that is normally used to produce industrial breads and baked products.
In the table (click on it to enlarge), you can see that all the nutrients are hugely reduced in refined grains compared to whole grains.
Some of these nutrients, such as like vitamin B2 and B6 completely disappear (“g” refers to amount of the nutrient in grams for 100 grams of flour, while RDA is the Recommended Daily Allowance of the specific nutrient).
In other words, when you buy refined grains, the food company has taken the whole grain and has thrown away for you all the good and healthy parts of it. What remains is a high glycemic-index starch that has a very similar effect to plain sugar in your body. Also a range of flavors coming from the removed nutrients goes away, such as a bit of fattiness, minerality, together with a variety textures and colors that are lost in the process.
The recommendation is very simple: make it normal for you to eat whole grains instead of refined grains. They are not only healthier, but also better tasting.
There is nothing wrong with eating white grains, such as bread or pasta every now and then, but the “normal” bread or pasta should be made of whole grain.
For your health, the winner is certainly wholegrains bread!
Switching from normally eating white grains, to normally eating whole grains is in my opinion the most important first step that you have to take if you want to develop healthy eating habits.
If you want to learn more about the scientific evidence about why whole grains are healtier than refined grain, take a look at this article about whole grains from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
Whole grains examples
Below you can find whole grains examples.
The list include cereals and pseudocereals, in most cases these can be found both in their refined and whole grains form.
Pseudocereals are plants that produce fruits or seeds that can be used similarly to cereals.
A good idea is to include most of these grains as part of your weekly eating plan that you can build using our free weekly meal planner for healthy eating.
- Buckwheat (pseudocereal)
- Quinoa (pseudocereal)
- Amaranth (pseudocereal)
- Chia (pseudocereal)