Grains make up a huge part of our daily diet. They are a great source of complex carbohydrates, essential minerals and vitamins. Whole grains, in particular, are the mainstay in wholesome nutrition, as their high fibre content ensures that the body receives adequate nutrition and sustains a healthy body weight.
There are numerous proven advantages of adding whole grains to your regular diet. These benefits include reducing the risk of severe conditions such as heart diseases, strokes, obesity, type 2 diabetes, constipation, chronic inflammation, cancer, and premature death.
A] ‘What’ Are Whole Grains?By definition, grains are seeds of plants or grasses grown for food. Grains have been a part of our diet for ages and come in a variety of shapes and sizes. We will focus here on the three primary grain groups to understand why whole grains have great goodness to offer.
1. Whole Grains
Let’s begin with the composition of whole grains. Each whole grain has three parts: bran, endosperm, and germ.
✔ Bran is the outer layer filled with fibre, iron, copper, magnesium, zinc, B vitamins, phytochemicals, and antioxidants.
✔ Endosperm, or the middle layer holds and supplies carbohydrates, B Vitamins, proteins, and minerals.
✔ At the core of whole grains lies the germ. It offers us vitamin E, B vitamins, healthy fats, antioxidants, and phytochemicals.
Examples of whole grains: Whole wheat, oats, etc.
2. Refined Grains
Milling is one of the processes used to refine grains. This process removes bran and germ, thereby eliminating essential nutrients from our diet. While refined grains have a longer shelf life and fine texture, they lack fibre and several other nutrients.
Examples of refined grains: Cereals, breads, desserts, etc.
3. Enriched Grains
These grains try to make up for the nutrients lost during the process of milling. Enriched grains are fortified with more nutrients to replenish the lost ones. Yet, the process of replacing the lost nutrients is not able to recover the lost fibres, so while they may be nutrient rich, they are not the best option for a wholesome diet.
Examples of Enriched grains: Enriched grain bread slice and other enriched grain products.
B] List of Whole Grains you must befriend?
1. Whole Wheat (Gehu)
One of the most readily available and nutritious whole grains foods, Whole wheat is already a large part of the traditional Indian diet. However, whole wheat has one pesky ingredient, gluten, that may cause allergic reactions in some people.
✔ Whole wheat and wheat flour which is commonly used are both primarily composed of carbohydrates , fibres, and proteins.
✔ The sugar and starch found in wheat are broken down into glucose, which provides our body with the energy required for performing daily activities.
✔ It is also known to control weight and lower the chance of heart diseases.
✔ Additionally, the fibre content lowers the risk of indigestion.
*Since it has gluten, people with related allergies should try their best to avoid it.
2. Buckwheat (Kuttu)
Buckwheat, also popularly known as Kuttu, is a pseudo-cereal. They are seeds of plants that are not grasses. Other pseudo-cereals include amaranth and quinoa. And no, the wheat in buckwheat has no relation to the whole wheat plant family.
✔ Like most whole grains, buckwheat is mainly composed of carbs, protein, and fibre. ✔ It is a good source of manganese, copper, magnesium, iron, and phosphorus. ✔ Buckwheat is also a great gluten-free alternative to wheat.
Buckwheat pancakes, Kuttu ka dosa (buckwheat dosa), and buckwheat aloo paratha are popular local delicacies. Most recipes use buckwheat flour, which can be easily obtained online.
3. Barley (Sattu or Jau)
Barley, locally referred to as Sattu or Jau, is considered a whole grain, despite the removal of the outer shell, which is inedible. It is a healthy and easy to cook option for Indian as well as international cuisines.
✔ Barely is highly nutritious and aids digestion and weight loss.
✔ Like wheat, barley also has gluten, which is avoidable for people with gluten allergies, including Celiac disease.
You can find numerous Barley recipes online. Make sure to try a quick barley risotto, or even the cooling Barley water.
4. Amaranth (Rajgira)
Like buckwheat, amaranth or rajgira is a pseudo-cereal. Since it is gluten-free, it is also a great alternative to wheat and barley.
✔ In terms of nutrition, amaranth offers high quantities of protein, fibre, antioxidants, and micronutrients.
✔ It also has a high content of manganese, magnesium, phosphorus, iron, selenium, and copper.
✔ Consuming amaranth can significantly reduce inflammation, lower cholesterol levels, and aid you in your weight loss goals.
There are myriad Rajgira recipes you can find online. Most rajgira recipes use rajgira flour. Some of the highly popular ones include rajgira roti, rajgira paratha, and rajgira aloo puri.
5. Pearl Millet (Bajra) and Finger Millet (Ragi)
Millets, are whole grains that are naturally Gluten free and have been around in the Indian subcontinent for centuries. While there are several varieties of millets available, Pearl millet or bajra and finger millet or ragi are most commonly consumed in India.
✔ Regardless of the type of millet, each one is highly nutritious and has an adequate composition of carbohydrates, proteins, and fibres. Millets are also naturally rich in antioxidants.
✔ Adding millets to your daily diet may control blood sugar levels and help lower cholesterol.
Common bajra recipes include bajra khichdi and bajra roti. You can also try creative ragi recipes such as ragi dosa, eggless ragi cake, ragi upma and more.
6. Sorghum (Jowari)
Sorghum, like several other whole grains on this list, has great health benefits. Popularly used in its flour form, it is a great alternative to wheat because of its gluten-free nature.
✔ It is a great source of carbohydrates and has an adequate composition of protein and fibres.
✔ It also supplies the optimum amounts of vitamin B6, vitamin B1, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, iron, copper, selenium, and zinc.
✔ It is naturally gluten-free and can help relieve inflammation and reduce the risk of cancer. Jowari roti, dosa, or pancakes are great meals to cook. You can also use jowari flour for baking.
Rye is one of the whole grains that can be grown in areas with low soil fertility and is similar to wheat. Its status as a whole grain comes into question as the outer shell is removed while processing. But, despite this, rye has a worthy nutrient composition.
✔ It is a good source of carbohydrates, fibres, protein, and micronutrients.
✔ The micronutrient composition includes manganese, magnesium, phosphorus, vitamin B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, and B9.
✔ It can lower the risk of type 2 diabetes, lowers cholesterol, improves digestion, and reduces the risk of heart disease and gallstones.
Rye bread is one of the most commonly consumed healthy whole grain foods across the world.
8. Sabudana (Pearl Sago)
Technically, Sago is not a whole grain. Indians commonly consume pearl sago, locally known as Sabudana. They are not natural grains but pearls formed from the sap of the sago palm. While they are not a good source of proteins and fibres, they are rich in carbohydrates.
✔ Sago pearls have a high amount of zinc and antioxidants. Benefits of this nutrient composition include reducing the risk of heart disease, increased endurance, and delayed fatigue.
Sabudana khichdi is one of the most common food items consumed by Indians. It is an item that can be eaten during fasting. Other recipes include sabudana thalipeeth and sabudana vada.
9. Corn (Makai)
Whole corn, also known as maize, is popular across the world. People are known to consume popcorn, roasted corn, or boiled corn daily as it makes for a healthy snack alternative.
✔ Popped Corn is a good source of manganese, phosphorus, magnesium, zinc, and copper. Adding corn or makai to your diet significantly lowers the risk of muscular degeneration and improve eye health. It may also prevent diverticular diseases. Natural corn is also gluten-free.
✔ It is abundant in carbohydrates, proteins, and fibre, all essential for the proper functioning of a body.
✔ The vitamins and mineral content may vary based on the type of corn you eat.
Popcorn, grilled corn, fried corn, and corn-cucumber salad are some healthy corn recipes for you to add to your daily diet plans.
10. Oats (Jaei)
Due to the recent rise in the healthy eating trend, Oats or Jaei have become popular amongst people looking to build on their health. They are a rich source of fibres, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.
✔ The main plant compounds found in oats include ferulic acid, phytic acid, and avenanthramides. Avenanthramides are a family of antioxidants that aid in reducing inflammation and controlling blood pressure.
✔ Other health benefits of oats include lowering cholesterol, preventing type 2 diabetes, low risk of childhood asthma in infants, and decreasing the need for laxatives in adults.
✔ Pure oats are also gluten-free.
Try a sweet baked oatmeal, overnight oats pudding, oatmeal porridge, oat pancakes, or even strawberry oatmeal smoothies.
‘Why’ should you consume whole grain foods?
Whole grains retain their natural nutrition and mineral compositions since they are not put through processes that strip them of essential components. We have looked at 10 of the most common whole grains foods you can easily make your meals with in your kitchen. Each of them promises advantages that suggest long-term health benefits.
The primary benefits include reducing the risks of severe diseases, such as cardiovascular disease, cancer, and type 2 diabetes. Whole grains are also effective in reducing inflammation. Our list also includes gluten-free options, so if you missed them the first time, keep an eye on your second go.