In this day and age, we’ve had to adjust to a faster pace of life and an abundance of quick and easy convenience foods that this change has brought with it. Both of these aspects can ultimately wreak havoc on our bodies. As obesity levels rise, there are still plenty of people striving for a happier and healthier life, making changes to their lifestyle and, in particular, their diet.
A healthy, balanced diet can make a huge difference to how you look and feel. Not only that, it can help to keep illnesses that are often associated with a poor diet at bay.
Simple changes to your diet can help kick-start your journey to a healthier you, and this involves making sure you include plenty of whole grain foods in your daily meals. There are numerous benefits that whole grains can bring to your health, and you’ll find plenty of variety within the different types, too.
Get yourself clued up on the different types of whole grains and their benefits with our complete guide to whole grain foods.
What are whole grains?
Whole grains come from a range of crops, such as rye, wheat, barley, rice and oats, that are grown and farmed for food all over the world. Whole grains are classed as the entire seeds that come from these plants. They consist of the bran (the outer shell), the germ (just inside the outer shell), and the endosperm (the starchy middle).
For the less nutritional ‘white’ food products made using these grains, the seeds are milled to remove the bran and the germ, leaving the starchy middle behind. These grains are then referred to as ‘refined’ grains.
Why is whole grain food healthier?
The majority of vitamins, minerals and nutrients that come from whole grains are found in both the bran and the germ; around three quarters, in fact. When the bran and germ are removed for the production of refined grains, so too are these nutrients, which are incredibly beneficial for our bodies.
As such, when the whole of the grain (whole grain food) is consumed, many more of these vitamins and nutrients are absorbed by the body, making whole grains much healthier and beneficial to us than the refined parts of the grain alone.
Fitting whole grains into your daily diet
Simple switches and additions to your meals can help to increase the amount of whole grains you consume. Not only that, but with a wide selection of whole grains available on shelves, you can easily enjoy whole grain food for breakfast, lunch and dinner!
Look out for wheat, rice, barley, maize, rye, oats and millet in the cereal food that you buy, as well as other grains such as buckwheat and quinoa, too.
You’ll instantly know when a product uses whole grains, as it will be described using the word ‘whole’, such as wholemeal bread and wholewheat pasta, for example. Use this information to swap the refined grains and foods out of your diet for these healthier alternatives.
Top Tip: Multigrain is commonly mistaken for being the same as whole grain; however, this term simply describes the variety of grains used within a particular product. These grains could still be refined rather than whole, so opt for whole grain descriptions when you can.
How much whole grain food should you be eating?
Although there currently isn’t any research on the correct portion size or amount of whole grains that should be consumed, dietitians recommend that you aim to have three portions every day.
- For breakfast, just one tablespoon of uncooked oats or three tablespoons of wholegrain cereal (such as Shredded Wheat, Weetabix or Bran Flakes) will provide one of your three daily whole grain portions.
- Enjoy a couple of oatcakes or rye crispbreads for another serving, or even a slice of wholemeal bread or half a wholemeal pitta. If you’re planning on having a movie night sometime soon, two cups of popcorn will give you plenty of whole grains.
- Brown rice, whole barley, bulgur wheat, quinoa and whole wheat pasta make healthy whole grain additions to your dinners.
- If you’re a keen baker, make the switch from white flour to a whole grain variety, such as wholemeal, buckwheat, wheat germ or oat flour, for example.
Making sure you are getting enough whole grain foods into your daily diet can be a challenge, but doing so can help you to keep feeling well. Find out just how 'well' you're doing with our individual Wellness Score Calculator. This tool provides you with a personalised Wellness Score based on you answering a few anonymous lifestyle questions. Find out your Wellness Score here.