The Low Down on Whole Grains
We often see in supermarkets, aisles lined with whole grain breads, whole grain pasta, and many snacks and cereals including whole grains within their ingredients. So what is a whole grain really? WELL, I’m glad you asked! Whole grains are seeds of certain plants and grasses. These seeds are in whole form, or have been cracked into a few smaller pieces. They contain the germ, bran, and endosperm. You actually have to physically chew them to brake through the fibrous layer. This fibrous outline tightly encloses the starch within the grain. Starch is the substance in certain carbs that elevates our blood sugar levels and gives us the energy we need. When we eat a whole grain our digestive enzymes take time to breakdown the fibrous covering. This allows for slower and a more even absorption of carbs/sugar into our bodies. This method is much more preferred and easier for our bodies to handle.
Whole grain flour, or pulverized grains, are whole grains that have been beat to a fine substance in which we use to cook breads, cookies, pastries, cereals, and many other baked goods. Now whole grain flour does contain the bran, germ, and endosperm however since it has been crushed so finely the starch within that grain, that is usually enclosed, is now exposed. It's surface area has increased and digestive enzymes no longer have to eat through a fibrous layer to breakdown this food. Because of this, starch is readily absorbed in the body and causes blood sugar levels to rapidly rise.
Constant spikes in blood sugar such as this have been linked to chronic diseases such as diabetes type 2, cancer, and heart disease. Many of the processed foods that are on shelves today contain these types of grains.
So why are whole wheat goods marketed as healthy food items? Well, because they are healthier options then eating white breads and enriched flours. Because the brain, germ, and endosperm are still maintained within whole-wheat flour, it contains many nutrients that white bread simply doesn’t have. However when it comes to sugar levels within the body, whole-wheat flour and white flour are essentially the same.
When looking for the healthiest options in bread choices try using sprouted breads, or breads such as rye or pumpernickel.