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Whole Grains vs Refined Grains

A whole grain is a grain that consists of all of the original components that were present when it was growing in the field. Refined grains, on the other hand, have had some of the components removed to give them a better texture and a longer shelf life.

These refined grains are more commonly used and find their way into our diets more often. However, recent studies indicate that it may be best to skip refined grains where possible, in favour of the whole grain alternatives.

Parts of a Grain

Grains begin their life as the seed of a plant. They consists of an edible kernel surrounded by an inedible husk that protects it from the dangers of nature. The kernel itself is made up of three parts:

The Bran: is the outer skin of the kernel. It contains lots of dietary fibre and B vitamins, as well as trace minerals.

The Germ: is the part of the kernel that is the embryo of the seed. It’s the nutrient storehouse. It is high in both vitamin B and vitamin E, as well as healthy fats and antioxidants.

The Endosperm: is the part of the seed that provides energy to the germ. It contains carbohydrates and protein.

Refined Grains

When it comes to refined grains, the bran and germ have been removed mechanically. The main reason for this is so they last longer before spoiling. Neither component is especially hardy, so removing them creates a product that will stay on the shelves for much longer. Refined grains also have a finer texture, which some people find to be preferable.

Many of the health benefits of a grain are removed during the refining process. Without germ and bran, grains do little more for us than provide energy. Studies show that sticking with whole grains can reduce the risk of heart disease, diabetes and stroke.

Another type of grain available on the market is enriched grain. These grains have had several nutrients added to them, such as iron and riboflavin in order to restore some of the nutritional value lost during the refining process. While enriched grains are healthier than other refined grains, they are nowhere near as beneficial as their whole grain alternatives.

Looking for ways to add more wholegrains to your diet? The next time you go shopping, consider choosing wholemeal bread, rice and pasta instead of the enriched or refined alternative.

When shopping for wholegrain products, it's important to check the nutritional facts and go over the ingredients. Even if the label says multigrain or something similar, it may not be made with wholegrains.

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