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  • Writer's pictureHannah Norton

Optimizing Nutrition: Gaining Ground with Grains

When the topic of carbohydrates (specifically grains) comes up, most people immediately picture bread or pasta. But this is far too narrow a view of the beautiful variety of grains available.


I won't be addressing the issue of gluten here since it is such a narrow element of our carbohydrate options. Gluten can be completely avoided and you can still get sufficient carbohydrates (and grains) in your diet through your produce and a variety of other grain options.


Various Grains and Carbohydrates
Variety of Carbohydrates (Grains)

Why do we need grains? Could we simply get enough carbs from our produce? Well, yes, and no! Grains provide something many of our fruits and veggies lack - B Vitamins (necessary in healthy skin cells, healthy hair, and nails and optimizing blood flow) and fiber (pulls water into our large intestine to prevent constipation and slows the absorption of sugar).


So basically, grains keep our bowels running well, keep our blood sugar in check, and help us have that healthy glow and lush locks. Who wouldn't want all of those benefits?


Unfortunately, though, you won't find these benefits in most processed and enriched grain products! Do you know what happens when a factory takes wheat and makes it "white" (for white bread, white bagels, white pasta, etc.)? They remove the fibrous outer casing of the grain and leave the center kernel. This is a problem! Most of the B Vitamins and Fiber that is beneficial in the grain is in the outer casing! Thus, why WHOLE GRAINS are healthier for you!


Have you ever read, "vitamin fortified" or "enriched" on your bread bag or cereal box? Most times this is because the companies have stripped the grain down to the simple carbohydrate in the middle of the kernel (aka: mostly simple sugar). The factories then add back artificial synthetic vitamins to make sure we are still getting our minimum vitamin needs met even when we are eating sugary sweet cereal. But how do you think our bodies process these additional fortifications?


The current nutrition guidelines is that you fill approximately 1/4 of your plate (or about 1/2 cup or one slice of bread) with a WHOLE GRAIN at each meal.


What are some of your options? If you're stuck in a bread/pasta rut, or don't already know, let me introduce:

Oats

Quinoa

Millet

Barley

Corn

Brown Rice

Lentils

Couscous

Kamut

(and a variety of other beans and legumes are also high in fiber and B vitamins)

Including: Pintos, Garbanzos, Black Beans, Kidney Beans, Lima Beans, etc.


Ultimately, in focusing on whole grains, you are optimizing your body's ability to have access to and digest your daily needed amounts of B vitamins. You're also keeping your digestion going and decreasing the risk of your blood sugar spiking. And who wouldn't want to avoid constipation if it was possible!



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