Does our body reflect what we eat? Of Course, it does. We know for generations that “A sound mind lives in a sound body”. One is not just feeding to one’s body: our mind is affected by what we eat, too. There is high degree of correlation between what we eat and how our mind works. This is called the ‘food – mind’ connection.
But, is food really important to keep us moving? And the obvious answer is yes. But, please just don’t go with the word; go with the fact and the science behind sound eating habits. My own research in this area reinforced what many experts have said before that nutrients present in food are more important than food in general to keep us invigorated. Let’s understand about our diet. Carbohydrate, protein, fats, vitamin and minerals are important constituents of our diet. The most important among them is carbohydrate for energy. Body cells need energy to carry out various processes such as movement, growth and repair.
Therefore, let us try to make a plate full of nutritious food that will help us maintain a good body weight, reduce our risk of developing diseases and as a result elevate our energy levels.
To live a powerful life, first thing we ought to do is to energize our body straight-away in the morning. This sounds quite impressive, right? Breakfast is our first food for the day to keep us charged and is also considered the most important meal of the day. John Gunther says “All happiness depends on a leisurely breakfast.” One should aim to decorate own plate with all vital nutrients. Having reinforced well-known fact that sound breakfast is key for energized life, let’s talk about what constitutes a sound breakfast. What key components we should try to include in our breakfast to elevate our liveliness? The most common food on breakfast table is the cereal, and in that wheat and rice are the most important ones. In this article, I will share some components of the science behind wholewheat (we will cover more in subsequent releases of the magazine) Talking about Wheat: It is among our quantitatively most important food, and is a major source of energy, protein, and several micronutrients. The complex carbohydrates found in bread and other foods made from wheat provide fuel for the human body. Carbohydrates are the body’s preferred fuel source.
Food Habit: Our meals are mainly based on starchy foods and wheat is one of the most important staple diets in our food.
We usually include cereal grains in our diet either in whole form or in refined form. Keeping in view the customer’s choice, the bran and germ fraction of wheat is usually removed before the wheat is used for human consumption that does not change starch content but, the fiber content is strongly reduced, as it goes-off with the outer bran layers of the wheat kernel, making it refined flour. On the other hand, in 100% whole-wheat products the bran and the germ of the wheat remain, making the appearance brownish but the health benefits are impressive!
Bottom-line: leverage whole-wheat products. We discussed the benefits of whole-wheat and now let us discuss the science behind whole-grain. What makes a grain whole: Whole grain refers to an entire cereal grain, also knows as a kernel. In other words, whole-grain products made from the entire grain seed, usually called the kernel, consist of the bran, germ, and endosperm. It can be cracked, crushed, or flaked, but in all the forms it must retain nearly the same relative proportions of bran, germ, and endosperm as the original grain in order to be called whole-grain.
The whole-grain has
- bran: outer layer of a kernel, rich in fibre (12-17%)
- germ: inner part of a kernel, rich in nutrient (Approx.- 3%)
- endosperm: a central part of a kernel, rich in starch (80 – 85%)
The presence of many healthy components, including dietary fiber, starch, essential fatty acids, antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, lignans, and phenolic compounds make whole-grain a healthy choice. Whole grain foods can contain up to 75% more nutrients than refined cereals, whereas grains are milled or refined (like white breads, white rice, and white pasta) to process and create a finer, lighter texture with no goodness of whole grain.
But, the market is flooded with variety of whole-grains. As a consumer how do we decide which whole-grain to eat more? One can even wonder, given all the choices of cereal grains, “Which whole-grains are the healthiest ones?”
The simple yet proven answer is that there is nothing like “healthiest” whole grain. Some are stronger in one nutrient while others in different nutrients. So, the best recommendation is to enjoy a variety of whole-grains (for example, use different variety in different months) for the best range of healthy nutrients and good tastes.
Another question once can ask is how much whole-grain we should consume every day: what is the Recommended Daily Intake of whole grain? The recommended daily intake of whole grains varies among countries. However, research suggests that generally three servings (48 g whole grain a day) is a good amount.
Even more challenging is to identify whole grain commodity in the market: shall we just check product label? We may think mere the presence of brown color reflects high fiber products, but it does not necessarily be a whole grain. Additional label reading is required to correctly identify foods that qualify as whole grain. The Whole Grains Council has created an official packaging symbol called the Whole Grain Stamp that helps consumers find real whole grain products (see table below): Summarize: It is a better option to replace the refined grain product with whole grain, rather than just adding the whole grain product to our existing diet. Our body will really appreciate when we include and increase the everyday consumption of whole grain.
Recent researches on whole-grain as a regular food item suggests significant health benefits ranging from stroke risk reduction, Cardio vascular disease risk, lower Type 2 diabetes risk, to reduced risk of asthma/colorectal cancer/ Metabolic
Furthermore, numerous studies proves that consumption of wholegrain helps in reducing weight gain for women, and promotes women’s health and gastrointestinal health and even the fiber from whole grains help in protecting against Breast
We should keep in our mind that it’s not a one day work to achieve or maintain a healthy weight. Also there are no pills or magic bullet, rather a right amount of calories/nutrients and regular physical activity will keep us tuned. With awareness and education, along with increased availability of easy-to-identify whole-grain products, we can increase our intake of whole grain to recommended levels and enhance our well-being.
Wish You All A Happy And Healthy Eating!
(Food Technologist from Central Food Technological Research Institute (CFTRI) India, Rashmi is a food, agricultural and bakery science scholar; currently lives in Hong Kong)