Saskatchewan crops produce nearly two thirds of the wheat grown in Canada and significant quantities of other grains. According to Canada’s Food Guide to Healthy Eating, Canadians are encouraged to consume 5-12 servings of grain products each day with an emphasis on whole grains. As citizens of Saskatchewan, this should be simple, but surprisingly, it is not. About 30% of Canadians are not eating the minimum number of grain servings daily, and the majority that are consumed come from refined grains. It is well known that whole grains have more health benefits. Let us take a look at the world of whole grains.
Whole grains 101
Grains are the seeds of plants. When whole, they include the bran, germ, and endosperm. The bran forms the outer layer of the seed and is a rich source of fibre. The germ, the part from where a new plant sprouts, contains protein and some fat and is a good source of B vitamins and iron. The largest part of the seed is the endosperm and it contains most of the protein and carbohydrate and some vitamins and minerals.
Refined grains vs. whole grains
Refined grains include white flour, pasta and white rice. The bran (where most of the fibre is found) and germ are removed during the milling process to make refined grains, resulting in an almost 100% loss of fibre. On the other hand, the bran remains intact on whole grains, making them a rich source of fibre.
The bottom line
We have all heard that fibre can do wonders for our health. But why? Fibre is the part of the whole grain that your body does not digest. It acts like a broom in your body, sweeping your stomach and intestines clean. Fibre can help prevent constipation, reduce the risk of colon cancer, hemorrhoids, irritable bowel syndrome, and diverticular disease. It can help lower cholesterol, reducing your risk of heart disease. Fibre slows the absorption of sugar in the body and can play an important role in preventing or delaying the onset of diabetes, or in treating diabetes in those who have it. Fibre-rich foods can also help with weight control by filling you up quickly and keeping you feeling fuller longer.
How can we add more fibre to our diet?
Be creative! Whole grain food products include whole wheat, oats, barley, brown rice, buckwheat, bulgar, millet, quinoa and flaxseed. Here are some tips.
- Eat more fibre-rich cereal such as bran flakes, shredded wheat or oatmeal.
- Choose whole wheat breads, pasta, bagels, tortillas, and multigrain muffins more often.
- Include wild rice and barley in soups, stews, casseroles and salads.
- Add bran cereal, wheat bran, or ground flaxseed to baked products such as breads, muffins, cakes and cookies, or even casseroles or meat loaf
- Sprinkle ground flaxseed over salads, soups, yogurt or cereals.
- Substitute whole wheat flour for half or all of the white flour in baking.
The key to success is to gradually increase the amount of fibre in your diet rather than completely cutting out refined grains. Remember that enriched white grain products also have some nutrients to offer, but a balance of whole grain and refined grain products, with an emphasis on whole grains is what we need to strive for.
WRITTEN BY THE PUBLIC HEALTH NUTRITIONISTS OF SASKATCHEWAN References:
Canadian Sugar Institute. “Canada-US Dietary Reference Intakes for Macronutrients.” (2005). http://www.sugar.ca/artMacroNutrients1.htm
Due North Software (n.d.). http://users.efni.com/~duenorth/canada/economy.html
Mayo Clinic. “Roughing it: Fitting more fiber into your diet”. (2003).http://www.mayoclinic.com
Mayo Clinic. “Whole grains: Reap the rewards”. (2003). http://www.mayoclinic.com
Pasut, L.”Grains: Essential for healthy eating”. Baking Association of Canada. (2005)