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Humans Are Supposed To Eat Whole Grains, But Most Of Us Are Eating Their Refined Versions

Humans Are Supposed To Eat Whole Grains, But Most Of Us Are Eating Their Refined Versions

Whole grains don’t have the best reputation

Whole grains have a bad reputation as dull, stodgy foods eaten by people who spend too much time worrying about their diet. However, whole grains are actually delicious when properly prepared. Moreover, they are much better suited to our digestive systems compared with more refined foods. Even if you feel as though your digestive health is currently good, you will be pleasantly surprised by the positive side effects of eating whole grain foods on a regular basis.

Why whole grains are important for good health

Whole grains such as wheat and rye are naturally rich in nutrients such as fiber and B vitamins, but these are lost during the milling processes involved in producing “white” or refined products. This means that when you choose white bread, white pasta or other refined products, you are missing out on the valuable nutritional benefits of whole grain products. Switching to whole grain foods will boost your energy and overall health.

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Whole wheat vs white bread

The following table provides a great example of how whole grains are the better choice compared with refined foods. Consider the nutritional advantages of eating 100g of whole grain bread compared with a highly-refined white version of the same food:

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    Information Source: U.S. Department Of Agriculture 

    Not only does whole grain bread have significantly more protein and fiber, it also contains much higher quantities of calcium and iron. These nutrients are important for key bodily functions such as maintaining a resilient immune system and healthy red blood cells.

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    The role of fiber

    Popular wisdom teaches us that vegetables are the best source of dietary fiber but, in fact, whole grain foods often contain more fiber, gram for gram, than veggies. For example, consider the fiber content of a bowl of lettuce. Typically, a portion of lettuce contains only a couple of grams of fiber. When you bear in mind that we should be aiming for around 25g of fiber per day, it quickly becomes apparent that this will not make an appreciable difference to your digestive health! On the other hand, a serving of whole grain pasta contains at least 6g of fiber. Therefore, it is sensible to make whole grains a staple source of fiber in your diet.

    Fruit also contains fiber and should be eaten regularly, but relying on it as a main fiber source is not a sensible idea. While fruit contains healthy vitamins and minerals, it is often high in sugar which can place a strain on the body’s ability to regulate blood sugar levels if eaten to excess. To see how this might work in practice, consider the fiber content of an orange. Each orange has 3g of fiber, so eating several oranges each day would help you increase your fiber intake. However, an orange contains nearly 10g of sugar and so eating them on a frequent basis may not be the smartest move from a health perspective.

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    Caution: Introduce new foods slowly

    If you are looking to increase your intake of whole grains, change your diet over the course of a few weeks. Making a sudden change from a diet high in processed foods to one based around whole grains may trigger gastric side effects including flatulence and diarrhea. These symptoms are not dangerous, but they can be uncomfortable and embarrassing. You can make life easier (and help your stomach adapt) by gradually phasing out refined or “white” carbohydrates and substituting whole grain versions in their place. Start by swapping your white bread for a whole grain brand, then your spaghetti, and so on. Within a couple of weeks, you should notice an improvement in your energy levels and digestive health.

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    Jay Hill

    Jay writes about communication and happiness on Lifehack.

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    Last Updated on March 25, 2020

    How to Live Longer? 21 Ways to Live a Long Life

    How to Live Longer? 21 Ways to Live a Long Life

    When it comes to living long, genes aren’t everything. Research has revealed a number of simple lifestyle changes you can make that could help to extend your life, and some of them may surprise you.

    So, how to live longer? Here are 21 ways to help you live a long life

    1. Exercise

    It’s no secret that physical activity is good for you. Exercise helps you maintain a healthy body weight and lowers your blood pressure, both of which contribute to heart health and a reduced risk of heart disease–the top worldwide cause of death.

    2. Drink in Moderation

    I know you’re probably picturing a glass of red wine right now, but recent research suggests that indulging in one to three glasses of any type of alcohol every day may help to increase longevity.[1] Studies have found that heavy drinkers as well as abstainers seem to have a higher risk of early mortality than moderate drinkers.

    3. Reduce Stress in Your Life

    Stress causes your body to release a hormone called cortisol. At high levels, this hormone can increase blood pressure and cause storage of abdominal fat, both of which can lead to an increased risk of heart disease.

    4. Watch Less Television

    A 2008 study found that people who watch six hours of television per day will likely die an average of 4.8 years earlier than those who don’t.[2] It also found that, after the age of 25, every hour of television watched decreases life expectancy by 22 minutes.

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    Television promotes inactivity and disengagement from the world, both of which can shorten your lifespan.

    5. Eat Less Red Meat

    Red meat consumption is linked to an increased risk of heart disease and cancer.[3] Swapping out your steaks for healthy proteins, like fish, may help to increase longevity.

    If you can’t stand the idea of a steak-free life, reducing your consumption to less than two to three servings a week can still incur health benefits.

    6. Don’t Smoke

    This isn’t exactly a revelation. As you probably well know, smoking significantly increases your risk of cancer.

    7. Socialize

    Studies suggest that having social relationships promotes longevity.[4] Although scientists are unsure of the reasons behind this, they speculate that socializing leads to increased self esteem as well as peer pressure to maintain health.

    8. Eat Foods Rich in Omega-3 Fatty Acids

    Omega-3 fatty acids decrease the risk of heart disease[5] and perhaps even Alzheimer’s disease.[6] Salmon and walnuts are two of the best sources of Omega-3s.

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    9. Be Optimistic

    Studies suggest that optimists are at a lower risk for heart disease and, generally, live longer than pessimists.[7] Researchers speculate that optimists have a healthier approach to life in general–exercising more, socializing, and actively seeking out medical advice. Thus, their risk of early mortality is lower.

    10. Own a Pet

    Having a furry-friend leads to decreased stress, increased immunity, and a lessened risk of heart disease.[8] Depending on the type of pet, they can also motivate you to be more active.

    11. Drink Coffee

    Studies have found a link between coffee consumption and longer life.[9] Although the reasons for this aren’t entirely clear, coffee’s high levels of antioxidants may play a role. Remember, though, drowning your cup of joe in sugar and whipped cream could counter whatever health benefits it may hold.

    12. Eat Less

    Japan has the longest average lifespan in the world, and the longest lived of the Japanese–the natives of the Ryukyu Islands–stop eating when they’re 80% full. Limiting your calorie intake means lower overall stress on the body.

    13. Meditate

    Meditation leads to stress reduction and lowered blood pressure.[10] Research suggests that it could also increase the activity of an enzyme associated with longevity.[11]

    Taking as little as 15 minutes a day to find your zen can have significant health benefits, and may even extend your life.

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    How to meditate? Here’re 8 Meditation Techniques for Complete Beginners

    14. Maintain a Healthy Weight

    Being overweight puts stress on your cardiovascular system, increasing your risk of heart disease.[12] It may also increase the risk of cancer.[13] Maintaining a healthy weight is important for heart health and living a long and healthy life.

    15. Laugh Often

    Laughter reduces the levels of stress hormones, like cortisol, in your body. High levels of these hormones can weaken your immune system.

    16. Don’t Spend Too Much Time in the Sun

    Too much time in the sun can lead to an increased risk of skin cancer. However, sun exposure is an excellent way to increase levels of vitamin D, so soaking up a few rays–perhaps for around 15 minutes a day–can be healthy. The key is moderation.

    17. Cook Your Own Food

    When you eat at restaurants, you surrender control over your diet. Even salads tend to have a large number of additives, from sugar to saturated fats. Eating at home will enable you to monitor your food intake and ensure a healthy diet.

    Take a look at these 14 Healthy Easy Recipes for People on the Go and start to cook your own food.

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    18. Eat Mushrooms

    Mushrooms are a central ingredient in Dr. Joel Fuhrman’s GOMBS disease fighting diet. They boost the immune system and may even reduce the risk of cancer.[14]

    19. Floss

    Flossing helps to stave off gum disease, which is linked to an increased risk of cancer.[15]

    20. Eat Foods Rich in Antioxidants

    Antioxidants fight against the harmful effects of free-radicals, toxins which can cause cell damage and an increased risk of disease when they accumulate in the body. Berries, green tea and broccoli are three excellent sources of antioxidants.

    Find out more antiosidants-rich foods here: 13 Delicious Antioxidant Foods That Are Great for Your Health

    21. Have Sex

    Getting down and dirty two to three times a week can have significant health benefits. Sex burns calories, decreases stress, improves sleep, and may even protect against heart disease.[16] It’s an easy and effective way to get exercise–so love long and prosper!

    More Health Tips

    Featured photo credit: Sweethearts/Patrick via flickr.com

    Reference

    [1] Wiley Online Library: Late‐Life Alcohol Consumption and 20‐Year Mortality
    [2] BMJ Journals: Television viewing time and reduced life expectancy: a life table analysis
    [3] Arch Intern Med.: Red Meat Consumption and Mortality
    [4] PLOS Medicine: Social Relationships and Mortality Risk: A Meta-analytic Review
    [5] JAMA: Fish and Omega-3 Fatty Acid Intake and Risk of Coronary Heart Disease in Women
    [6] NCBI: Effects of Omega‐3 Fatty Acids on Cognitive Function with Aging, Dementia, and Neurological Diseases: Summary
    [7] Mayo Clinic Proc: Prediction of all-cause mortality by the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory Optimism-Pessimism Scale scores: study of a college sample during a 40-year follow-up period.
    [8] Med Hypotheses.: Pet ownership protects against the risks and consequences of coronary heart disease.
    [9] The New England Journal of Medicine: Association of Coffee Drinking with Total and Cause-Specific Mortality
    [10] American Journal of Hypertension: Blood Pressure Response to Transcendental Meditation: A Meta-analysis
    [11] Science Direct: Intensive meditation training, immune cell telomerase activity, and psychological mediators
    [12] JAMA: The Disease Burden Associated With Overweight and Obesity
    [13] JAMA: The Disease Burden Associated With Overweight and Obesity
    [14] African Journal of Biotechnology: Anti-cancer effect of polysaccharides isolated from higher basidiomycetes mushrooms
    [15] Science Direct: Periodontal disease, tooth loss, and cancer risk in male health professionals: a prospective cohort study
    [16] AHA Journals: Sexual Activity and Cardiovascular Disease

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