Get Your Grains in and Fill Up on Fiber!

wild riceGetting enough grains in your diet is of utmost importance to fuel your body with the nutrients it needs to function properly and maintain a healthy lifestyle day in and day out. Making up the largest food group, grains are required in larger proportions per day than proteins, dairy, fruits, vegetables, or fats. Grains provide us with an abundant source of energy in the form of carbohydrates, dietary fiber, and several vitamins and minerals.

There are two different subgroups of grains, whole grains and refined grains. According to the baguettesMayo Clinic, whole grains are unrefined grains that have not had their bran and germ removed through milling, therefore making them better sources of dietary fiber and other nutrients. Some examples of whole grains include oatmeal, brown rice, quinoa, multigrain breads, and whole-grain pastas. Refined grains have undergone the milling process to give them a finer texture and improve their shelf life, but unfortunately removing fiber, iron, and many vitamins. Most refined grains are enriched, meaning the iron and vitamins that were lost are added back after processing. Examples of refined grains products are grits, flour and corn tortillas, and white flours, breads, and pastas.

Whole grains in particular are abundant in fiber, one of the key nutrients in maintaining a healthy diet. According to the Mayo Clinic, dietary fiber consists of all plant foods that cannot be digested or absorbed by the body. It is essential that we get enough fiber every day, as it helps to keep us full for a longer amount of time by slowing the digestion of other nutrients, lowering cholesterol levels and controlling blood sugar levels. Fiber also helps to maintain bowel movements and lowers the risk of diabetes, heart disease, certain cancers, and other health problems. It is recommended that we make at least half of all grains eaten whole grains to reap these benefits.

multigrain breadIt is very important to not cut grains out of the diet for a number of reasons. First and foremost, carbohydrates are the body’s main source of energy and without a sufficient amount, the body will start to break down protein and fat for energy, therefore initiating the breakdown of muscle. It is also very difficult to get an adequate amount of fiber without carbohydrates in the diet. Cutting carbs can also put you at risk for a deficiency in certain nutrients that are primarily found in the grains group. Another shortfall of cutting out carbohydrates is that typically those calories are replaced with fats and higher fat sources of protein that can increase your cholesterol and saturated fat intake.

You can easily enjoy incorporating the grains group into your diet with these simple and tasty ideas:

  • Top whole grain cereals or oatmeal with fruit and low-fat milkcereal and blueberry
  • Spread nut butter on whole-grain toast and top with fruit slices
  • Enjoy a whole-grain bagel or English muffin with cream cheese or jam
  • Substitute whole-wheat or oat flour for at least half of the regular flour in muffin, pancake, or waffle batter
  • Make a sandwich with a whole-wheat wrap or pita bread
  • Snack on whole-grain crackers with hummus or cheese
  • Toss air-popped popcorn, a naturally whole grain snack, with nuts, dried fruit, and chocolate chips for a homemade trail mix
  • Serve whole-grain tortilla chips with salsa and guacamole
  • Use whole-grain tortillas the next time you serve tacos or quesadillas
  • Try whole-wheat pasta in your next Italian dish
  • Serve whole-wheat dinner rolls or breadsticks at your next get together
  • Fix brown rice to go alongside a stir-fry
  • Opt for whole-wheat hot dog and hamburger buns at your next cookout
  • Try unsweetened whole-grain cereal or rolled oats as a breading for chicken
  • Add whole-wheat flour or oats when making cookies or other baked treats

So instead of putting yourself at risk for some of the unwanted health conditions of cutting carbs, make the healthy choice and get your grains in!

Photo Credit: Rachel Weidt, FBM

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