What are Whole Grains and Why are They Important?

Have you heard the hype about whole grains and wonder to yourself, what’s all the fuss? If yes, this article for you. If no, you’ll probably get something out of this too 😄,

Let’s dive in…whole grains are cereal and grain products made from oats, rice, wheat, barley and other grains that are still intact. Before processing, grains are made up of the germ, the bran, and the endosperm and each part of the grain serves an important role in nutrition:

  • The bran is the oil-containing layer of the grain and is also vitamin, mineral, and fiber-rich
  • The germ can be used to grow other grains and is also the embryo of the grain. Plus it’s rich in oil, vitamins, and minerals
  • Finally, the endosperm is what’s left after the refining process and is pretty much all starch

Whole grains are intact because they have all three original components. Refined grains, on the other hand, have been processed to remove the germ and the bran. The refining of grains makes them faster to cook and easier to eat. Another practical reason for refining grains is to remove the oil containing layers, which increases the grain’s shelf life.

Why it matters that the grains you eat are whole

Whole grains are high in carbohydrates, but these are the types of carbohydrates that you want to eat. They’re called complex carbohydrates and are digested slowly in your stomach for a steady release of energy into your system. While some diets advocate lowering carbohydrates levels to lose weight, your body needs them for energy.

The reason why you might get a quick weight loss boost from cutting carbohydrates out is that you probably have a preference for refined carbohydrates in your regular diet, and these are quickly digested and can cause a surge of energy followed  by a crash that leaves you feeling tired and hungry in a shorter period of time than expected. This means that you eat more often to sustain your energy levels, and eating more often can result in eating more overall.

And the quick digestion of refined grains raises your blood sugar quickly and triggers the fat storage hormone, insulin, to get to work. So when you eat more whole grains, you’re reducing the frequency of these blood sugar spikes and giving your body time to use up some of the calories you eat before they get stored as fat.

Here some reasons why you want to eat more whole grains

They help keep you fuller for longer

Whole grains are fiber-rich and contain more protein than their refined counterparts. The small amounts of fat that they contain also give whole grains a flavor that you can’t get from refined grains. This combination means that whole grains raise your blood sugar slower than refined grains and doesn’t crash it as fast. Translation—more energy through the day to crush your goals without the 3 pm crash and fewer fat-storing triggers if you’re eating the right portions.

They fill you up on less

Whole grains are heartier than their refined counterparts. This means that it doesn’t take much of it for you to either feel full or get tired of eating. This can lead you to eat less while eating healthier, which is the goal when you’re trying to lose weight.

Keeps you regular

This goes back to the fiber that whole grains contain. Being constipated isn’t fun and can cause other problems like hemorrhoids (pile)…caused by the straining that you do when you’re constipated and want to force things to move along. Eating a diet rich in fiber—rich in whole grains, fruits, and vegetables—can help keep things moving and keep you from this uncomfortable lifestyle disease.

How to use this information to eat healthier

Identify the refined grains that you currently eat regularly

If you don’t already track your meals, take the next seven days to keep track of what you eat. After the seven days are up, identify the grain foods that you eat and make a list of the ones that are refined.

Identify whole grains you can use to replace refined grains

Using your list from your food tracking, identify the refined grains you eat and identify whole grains you can replace them with. For example, if you eat:

  • a lot of pasta, look for alternatives like whole wheat or brown rice pasta (brown rice pasta is milder than whole wheat and still a whole grain)
  • and for my Nigerian sisters, if you eat white rice, you can consider going for brown rice. If you’re not a fan of that, continue reading.

If you don’t know where to begin making swaps, the companion worksheets that come with Weight Loss for High Achievers has a whole list of healthy foods that support weight loss. Get the book here and get access to this valuable bonus.

Eat other unprocessed high carbohydrate foods that aren’t grains

If you’re not a big fan of whole grain foods like brown rice or if you just don’t have access to them, you can get your carbohydrates from other whole foods. Starchy vegetables like yams, sweet potatoes, and plantains are carbohydrate and fiber-rich.

You can also get your proteins from beans and lentils that provide protein and are fiber-rich sources of carbohydrates. If you choose to do this, consult your doctor as you might be introducing deficiencies into your diet by skipping grains altogether.

It’s time to take action

Evaluate the grains you eat right now and answer the following questions:

  1. What are the most common/popular refined grains you eat right now?
  2. Do you eat any whole grains?
  3. What can you do to replace your popular refined grains with whole grains?

Take action and actually do it.

P.S. Get a complete system to help you eat healthy to fuel your epic life and get to a healthy and happy weight with Weight Loss for High Achievers. You’ll get the tools you need and access to companion worksheet to help you get the most out of your investment in the book. Click here to get your copy on Amazon.