Often selection of the daily staples is based on family traditions or cultural influences. Despite being the major component of our diet, we do not put enough time and effort in making a conscious choice of cereal or grains.
Whole grain are seeds of the grasses cultivated for food. They need to be processed to convert them into edible form but the level of processing is what determines their impact on health.
Whole grains have an intact bran and germ layer (see figure) leading to retention of fiber, vitamin and minerals naturally bestowed by nature. During refining , these components are lost along with the nutrients rendering the milled grains devoid of natural goodness. The milling of grains was developed so as to improve the sensory qualities of the food unfortunately at the cost of its nutrition. Then the manufacturers attempt to compensate for the losses by providing enriched flours where the lost nutrients are added back in the form of chemical globules that are not very well recognized and utilized by the body.
Examples of whole grains include:
- Brown rice
- Bulgur (cracked wheat)
- Millet (Ragi, bajra, Jowar,
- Whole-wheat bread, pasta or crackers
- Wild rice
Ways to incorporate whole grains
- Use dalia made from bulgur wheat or barley for preparing vegetable upma
- Add ground oat flakes to the batter used for rawa dhokla /handwa
- Add ragi flour to idli/ dosa/ dhokla/adai/pesarattu batter
- Use whole wheat flour instead of maida to prepare white sauce
- Prepare jowar bhakris for dinner instead of wheat chapatti
- Switch to brown rice for preparing khichdi, pongal or bisibele bhaath
- Use durum wheat pasta instead of semolina / refined wheat pasta
Whole grains provide the additional benefits of fiber and nutrients that are retained due to minimal processing. Hence they are beneficial for prevention of diseases related to the digestive system such as irritable bowel syndrome, ulcerative colitis, colon cancer, metabolic diseases such as obesity, diabetes, dyslipidemia and diseases of the heart.