I don't know about y'all but when I was growing up, when it came to what I should eat vs. what I should avoid, I oftentimes heard folks say, "If it's white, it ain't right." In this context, what that meant was foods like white bread, white rice (except for jasmine rice), white pasta — none of these were considered to be very healthy because they tend to be so over-processed that there is minimal nutritional value to them. Because of that, eating them on a consistent basis can lead to health issues like obesity, type 2 diabetes, constipation, depression-related symptoms and even fatty liver disease.
What's the alternative? Whole grains. What makes them so much better is because foods that are made from whole grains literally contain all of the grain in them — all of the bran, germ, and endosperm. This helps you to get so many of the vitamins and minerals as a direct result. And just what kind of grains are considered to be "whole"? Some include oats, barley, rye, wheat, quinoa, millet and corn (including cornmeal and popcorn).
OK. Now before you head off to your local grocery store and fill up your cart with whole grain foods, it's important to remember the very wise words of Aristotle — the excess of a virtue is a vice. As it relates to this particular topic, it's relevant because, while whole grains are good for us on a lot of levels, overdoing it can result in some unforeseen health issues, if we're not careful. So, as you're making out your next grocery shopping list, take into account eight good reasons to eat whole grains and four reasons to consume them in moderation.
8 Reasons to Eat Whole Grains More Often
1. They’re GOOD for Your Digestion
On average, whole grains contain somewhere between 3-5 grams of fiber per serving. As I'm pretty sure you know, fiber is essential to a healthy diet because it helps to keep "good bacteria" in your gut which makes it easier for you to digest food and have regular bowel movements. And the more regular your bowels are, the easier it is to keep toxins out of your body. All of this is a really good thing.
2. They’re GOOD at Fighting/Preventing Chronic Inflammation
Just for the record, inflammation is what happens when your system kicks up its white blood cells and whatever else it needs to go overtime in fighting bacteria or viruses. The challenge is, some people have health issues (for instance, arthritis) where, when inflammation happens, when there are no "invaders". As a result, healthy tissues become inflamed and damaged. Something that whole grains do is lower your risk of experiencing unnecessary inflammation. In fact, they are on the list of many health-related articles that mention anti-inflammatory foods. That is, unless you are allergic to a protein in wheat known as gluten. If that is the cause, it could cause inflammation in your system. I'll touch more on that towards the end of this article, though.
3. They’re GOOD at Redistributing Fat and Keeping Your Weight Under Control
Do whole grains help you to lose weight? Eh, it kind of depends on who you ask.
What I will say is, from what I've read and researched, consuming whole grains is a wise move on this tip because it has the ability to reduce the amount of fat that is currently in your system while redistributing it at the same time. For instance, people who replace white foods with whole grains tend to notice a real change when it comes to the amount of belly fat that's stored up in their abdominal region.
Sounds like a win to me!
4. They’re GOOD at Lowering Bad Cholesterol and Your Blood Pressure
If you want to keep your cholesterol levels and blood pressure under control, whole grains are really good at doing both. However, it should go on record that as far as your cholesterol goes, it lowers your LDL cholesterol and TC, not HDL cholesterol or triglycerides. Also, whole grain oats are the kind of whole grains that are most effective for this. As far as your blood pressure goes, because whole grains are a good source of potassium and potassium helps to weaken the effect of sodium in your system, that's why whole grains work so well in this department.
5. They’re GOOD at Giving You Your Daily Source of Vitamin B
If you basically want to take a B-complex vitamin, eat some whole grain foods. The reason why I say that is because they literally contain all eight B vitamins. This is good to know because B-vitamins help to boost your energy level, promote good digestion, strengthen your cells as they develop, keep your nerves in good shape, lower your stroke risk, boost your immunity, keep your hormones healthy and so much more.
6. They’re GOOD at Regulating Your Blood Sugar Levels
Here's another awesome point. While white foods (refined ones) can spike your blood sugar levels, whole grain foods are able to prevent this from ever happening. The main reason is because fiber has a way of assisting with insulin insensitivity. This means that the more whole grains you have — especially over white foods — the better you are at decreasing your chances of experiencing type 2 diabetes.
7. They’re GOOD for Your Oral Health
I bet you never thought that a bowl of oatmeal or some spaghetti that's made with whole wheat pasta could be good for your teeth; however, that is exactly the case.
The B-vitamins, iron, zinc, magnesium and antioxidants in them all help to keep your gums and teeth nice and strong. Also, since whole grains are good at keeping blood sugar levels in their place, this can promote good oral health overall.
8. They’re GOOD at Promoting Longevity
After reading all of the benefits that I just shared, it probably comes as no surprise to you that consuming whole grains is good for your overall longevity too. In fact, I read a study that said eating whole grains can lower your risk of heart disease by as much as 15 percent and overall death rate by 9 percent. Every little bit helps, right?
Now let's tackle just a few reasons why you should definitely balance how many whole grains you eat on a regular basis.
4 Reasons to Consume Your Whole Grains in Moderation
1. Eat Them in MODERATION Because They Can Trigger Bloating
Something that's interesting about whole grains is, although they're considered to be a pretty good source of fiber, the challenge is they're also an indigestible carbohydrate. When it comes to whole grains, specifically, this doesn't mean that they are bad for you. What it does mean is since your gastrointestinal tract lacks the enzymes to break them all the way down, they end up turning into a gummy texture in your system which slows down your digestive process which can ultimately lead to bloating. That said, the takeaway here is not that you should go without whole grains altogether, you just need to not have a ton of them in one sitting.
2. Eat Them in MODERATION Because They Can Also Trigger Autoimmune Diseases
First of all, let me say that if you've ever wondered what an autoimmune disease actually is, the short long of it is, it's when your body mistakenly attacks your immune system. OK, so remember how I said earlier that we would come back to gluten? Again, gluten is a plant-based protein that exists in a lot of different grains. Personally, I'm not big on the whole gluten-free diet for all because not everyone is allergic to it. However, if you are and you keep on eating it anyway, it can trigger the autoimmune disease known as Celiac disease. Also, if you've got some sort of a whole grain allergy and you battle with lupus, type 1 diabetes, multiple sclerosis, psoriasis, inflammatory bowel disease, etc., it can definitely cause the symptoms that are related to these health issues to flare up. In other words, whole grains and autoimmune diseases don't exactly get along.
3. Eat Them in MODERATION Because They Can Cause Kidney Stones
Recently, I was talking to my landscape architect about the reason why he had been MIA for a few weeks. "Have you ever had a kidney stone before? It's hell," he said with a miserable look on your face. Fortunately, I have not. I do know some folks who have, though, and they all express his same sentiment. If you can relate to where they are coming from, this is one more reason to watch how many whole grains you eat.
Something that whole grains have in them is an organic plant compound known as oxalic acid. While this acid is typically flushed out whenever we urinate, folks who are highly susceptible to kidney stones should be careful because this acid sometimes has a way of connecting to the calcium in our system which can ultimately create a kidney stone (ouch).
4. Eat Them in MODERATION Because They Could Reveal an Allergy
One more. I know a few people who are pretty healthy eaters and yet, for years, they were dealing with a lot of inflammation and bloating that they couldn't seem to get a handle on. That is, until they took an allergies test and realized that they were allergic to wheat and/or gluten. If after consuming whole grains, you notice that your skin feels itchy, you've got some bloating or inflammation going on, you have a headache, you feel nausea and/or you're going through an eczema breakout, it could be that you are allergic to a particular kind of whole grain. The only way to know for sure is to make an appointment with your doctor or to take a food allergy test. Everlywell is one company that offers food sensitivity/allergy tests that you can take from the comfort of your own home. The sooner you know, the better you'll feel about the kind of whole grains you eat, how much you consume them — and why.
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