It seems like every day we are inundated with new information about diets, nutrition, what we should eat, and what we should avoid. Studies give us facts and figures and online health gurus tout the benefits of foods from apples to zucchini. Sifting through this often-overwhelming advice can be intimidating when trying to determine all the facets of a healthy lifestyle, particularly with what food we consume.
Always keep in mind we know our bodies best especially with how we react to certain foods. We have ping-ponged back and forth about grains being an important part of a balanced diet and grains contributing to digestive issues. How do you know which side of this debate to accept?
Again, pay close attention to what your body tells you as well as weigh the pros and cons of eating or eliminating grains. A bit of research and some safely applied trial and error can help you determine if grains should remain as part of your dietary choices. If not, there are lots of ingredients that can serve as substitutes for processed ones containing grains, such as gluten-free flour.
How Many Grains Are There?
Well, quite a lot. We know most of the big players in the grain game -- wheat, barley, rye, oats, rice, and corn, but there are so many others including millet, buckwheat, bulgur, brown rice, teff, sorghum, and quinoa. They are grown throughout the world and are used in many dishes from baked goods to cereals to main courses. Grains often provide a foundation for soups, salads, entrees, and desserts. With such a ubiquitous range it’s important to know which grains you consume and what is their nutritional value.
Why Do We Eat Grains?
Most grains can be an essential part of a balanced diet filled with nutrients that aid in the health of our bodies. Grains are dense and can offer a feeling of satiety which can help with minimizing hunger and benefit weight management.
While grains contribute to the variety of tastes, textures, and nutrients in the foods we eat, it is also important to note the appearance of any negative health issues after consuming grains, especially those containing gluten like wheat, rye, and barley. Digestive issues and celiac disease are related to gluten consumption and so it should therefore be avoided if thought to cause problems along your digestive tract.
Are Their Pros and Cons of Eating Grains?
There are as many answers to this question as there are grains. As with anything we eat, it is vitally important to know the nutritional benefits and grains must factor into this assessment.
A few of the pros of eating grains may include:
- High in fiber so you feel fuller longer.
- Contains vitamins and minerals associated with heart health, diabetes prevention, and weight management.
- Contains fiber, antioxidants, and vitamin K which are linked to reducing the possibility of strokes.
- Gut health including reducing constipation and providing some probiotics
And what is the healthiest grain? Oats are in the running for this prize because they are loaded with fiber, vitamins, and minerals as well as being gluten-free.
A few of the cons of eating grains may include:
- Wheat is one of the “big 8” allergens that can cause severe reactions in those who have a wheat allergy.
- Wheat and other grains with gluten are associated with digestive issues and autoimmune celiac disease.
- Grains have been thought to contribute to inflammation and metabolic conditions.
- Many grains have been so refined that many nutrients have been lost as well as the possibility of toxins or antinutrients being added.
And what is the least healthy grain? In terms of digestive health, intolerance, and celiac disease, wheat and the gluten it contains is the loser.
There’s no doubt that sometimes decisions about nutrition can be confusing because we are bombarded with almost more conflicting information than we can adequately process. A good rule of thumb is to become aware of what we eat, become cognizant of our body’s responses, and seek advice from a healthcare provider or nutritionist so that your healthy eating decisions are based on facts and personal experience.