Ever since stable human civilizations have emerged and developed, people have been consuming food grains on a daily basis as staple food. The harvest and post-harvest processing methods of these grains have evolved over centuries. People’s eating habits have also transformed drastically through the ages. We have learnt to make use of the required specific parts of grains and discard the unwanted parts. Refining is such a process which has developed with time. In this process, the grains are milled with the help of roller grinders, where the grains are cracked and their endosperm separates from their bran and germ. Endosperm is the starchy carbohydrate part of grain with a tiny amount of vitamins and minerals. We prefer on eating refined grains because they are less fibrous and easier to chew and digest. The most commonly refined flour is wheat. Most of the delicious bakery cereal food products are made from refined wheat flour or maida. As maida does not contain germ and bran, it is devoid of good fiber and nutrients that whole wheat is enriched with. We use refined wheat flour in a variety of our dishes. Delicacies like bread, buns, noodles, cakes, biscuits have refined flour as their major ingredient. As refined grains skip important nutrients, all we consume at the end is starch and carbs. Fortification methods have been used to make up for the lost nutrients, but some elements of natural grain like phytochemicals can neither be economically recovered nor can be added to refined grains.
As opposed to this, whole grains contain three layers, namely bran, germ as well as endosperm. Bran is the fibre-filled outer layer of grain with vitamin B, minerals, antioxidants and phytochemicals. The innermost germ layer is the nutrient packed core with vitamins B and E, phytochemicals and healthy fats. As whole grains have good fibre content, they take longer time to pass through the intestine and help in longer digestion time. This ensures proper absorption of important micronutrients along with major nutrients in blood. It also keeps the stomach full for a longer time, resulting in a feeling of satiety and avoidance of overeating and consequent weight gain. Bran and fibre are slowly digested in the colon as compared to simple sugars like glucose. Thus the blood sugar level rises gradually and in a controlled manner instead a of sharp, drastic rise.
Research shows that consumption of whole grains is linked to a less likely possibility of death due to inflammatory and cardiovascular diseases as also cancer. Replacement of refined grains with fibrous whole grains with a lower glycemic index is beneficial in the reduction of type-2 diabetes by improving insulin sensitivity and glucose metabolism. The fibre in whole grains makes the stool soft and bulky with better absorption and retention of water, helping in prevention of constipation.
In the beginning, it may seem difficult to switch to whole grain products instead of their refined counterparts, but changing to these products will prove beneficial in the long run. Efforts are also being made to improve the sensory appeal of whole grain products. Fitness freaks and diet conscious people are wilfully changing their unhealthy fooding habits by choosing whole grain substitutes of products like brown bread, multigrain flour, whole wheat noodles and pasta, brown rice, whole grain breakfast cereals. All in all, we can say that a healthy diet paves way for a healthy body and modifying the items on our plate to healthier options heavily weighs in to promote fitness and longevity of a healthy life.