I have a confession to make: I love bread. That’s probably not surprising but what might surprise you is bread or grain based foods are an essential food group we should all be eating every day. Now I know anything made out of grains or whole grains like pasta, breads and cereals have copped a beating over the past few years by those who think they cause a range of diseases like obesity, diabetes, leaky gut and systemic inflammation, but I’m here to tell you that is all rubbish.
Before we go any further I want to make it clear that whole grain based foods are nutrition power houses. Grain based foods are low in fat, are a great source of carbohydrate, are high in insoluble fibre and high in protein.
They are also a source of glucofructan (which works like a prebiotic) a major source of B-group vitamins including thiamine, riboflavin, niacin and folate and contains phytochemicals which have a range of protective health benefits. If that is still not enough reason to eat more whole grain based foods, studies have shown whole grain based foods can be more protective against heart disease, cancer, diabetes and stroke than fruit and vegetables.
Grain based foods come from a range of plants or ‘grasses’ which have edible seeds. The most commonly consumed ones in Australia are wheat, oats and rice. The wheat grain is the seed which makes the flour which we eat in most breads in Australia and the way it is processed will determine how nutritious it is.
A simple rule to follow is grain based foods should look the same colour as they come out of the ground and that’s brown. When bread or other grains or cereals are referred to as a whole meal or whole grain it means the entire seed has been used to make the food and nothing is taken away. These types of foods are always brown in colour which reflects the natural colour of grain foods.
When a food is made from wheat flour it is made from a part of the seed called the endosperm and contains mostly carbohydrate and protein and is white in colour. This part of the grain has very little nutritional value when compared to the bran and germ parts of the grain which are high in fibre, B vitamins, antioxidants and vitamin E.
So when it comes to eating grain foods what should we look out for? Try to choose foods which have wholemeal or whole grain high up in the ingredient list. Many breads which are multi-grain have the seeds mixed in with wheat flour. So you have the goodness of the grains but the less nutritional value of wheat flour.
The Grains and Legumes Nutrition Council recommend a wholegrain intake of 48 grams a day. Choice magazine recently reviewed a range of breads and found a single slice of wholegrain rich bread contains anywhere between 28 – 49 grams of wholegrains. So you can see, it really isn’t that hard to achieve your 48 grams day.
If bread is not something you eat everyday then porridge, brown rice, wholegrain pasta and crispbreads are all great sources of wholegrains. If you have coeliac disease then buckwheat, millet, quinoa, corn, soughum and amaranth are all excellent wholegrain alternatives.
The key to any diet is achieving balance and variety. By including around six serves of grains into your diet each day will ensure you have plenty of energy, fibre, protein and health enhancing vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. To achieve this your daily intake would include half a cup of muesli with a slice of wholegrain toast for breakfast, a sandwich at lunch and half a cup of brown rice or quinoa for dinner. Not much really but an excellent way to enhance your overall health. Until next time, eat well and go well.