The health benefits of whole grains

While highly refined grains like white flour, white bread and white rice can have negative effects on your health if eaten in large amounts, getting plenty of whole grains in your diet can actually benefit your body. Wondering what whole grains are? They’re essentially the seeds of cereal grains and are made up of three different parts1:

  • Bran – the outer shell of the grain that’s rich in fibre, minerals and antioxidants
  • Endosperm – the middle of the grain which is mostly made up of carbohydrates
  • Germ – the centre of the grain and where most of the vitamins, minerals and proteins are
Whole grains differ from refined grains as they’ve not had their husks removed. This means they contain much higher amounts of vitamins, fibre and other beneficial substances.

Why are whole grains good for you?

If you’re wondering why you should be including more of them in your diet, here are four incredible health benefits of whole grains:2

  1. They aid with digestion

Whole grains are a fantastic source of soluble fibre – a substance your digestive tract needs to smoothly process food. Fibre allows your intestines to absorb nutrients properly so they can be put to good use around your body.

  1. They reduce your urge to snack

Another major benefit of the amazing fibre content in whole grains is that it can aid in curbing your appetite. Eating a bowl of oats for breakfast or having a lunch containing wholegrain pasta, couscous or bulgur wheat should keep hunger cravings at bay for longer and reduce any urges to snack in between meals.

  1. They’re high in various vitamins and minerals

Whole grains contain high amounts of numerous nutrients we need to function day to day. This includes certain B vitamins such as thiamin and folate which support the central nervous system, aid with digestion and help the body make new red blood cells.3

  1. They may reduce your risk of certain health conditions

Some studies show that eating a diet that’s rich in healthy whole grains may help reduce your risk of developing illnesses such as heart disease or type 2 diabetes. This is likely down to the high mineral content and abundance of antioxidants with anti-inflammatory properties present in most whole grains.

Which whole grains are the most nutritious?

There are a handful of different whole grains available to eat – but which ones provide the best nutrition? To get the most out of your whole grains, consider eating more of the following:

  • Whole oats – Oats which haven’t been highly processed are the ideal breakfast food and among the top whole grains you can eat. 28g of oats contain around 3g of fibre (10% of the UK recommended intake). This includes a particularly beneficial soluble fibre called beta-glucans which some studies show may help lower cholesterol4

  • Quinoa – This South American staple is not only packed with vitamins, minerals and fibre (more than most other whole grains!), but it also contains all nine essential amino acids. These are compounds which the body uses to make protein5

  • Popcorn – Popcorn is classified as a whole grain and contains various different essential minerals, plus it’s incredibly rich in fibre. In fact, 100g of popcorn is thought to have nearly 15g of fibre in it6!

Can any whole grains be bad for you?

It’s highly unlikely that eating whole grains will make you ill, however some (including wheat, rye and barley) contain gluten which makes them unsuitable for people with Coeliac disease or a gluten intolerance. If you suffer from IBS, you might also find certain wholegrains increase your symptoms.7 As with any type of food, it’s best to always stick to the recommended amounts. Eating too much of anything can lead to stomach upsets and weight gain, so always read the serving suggestions on packets and stick to the government health guidelines.
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