Whole grains on the other hand are high in fibre, B vitamins and minerals that are essential for a healthy diet. Dietary fibre from whole grains can help to reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes. They release energy slowly to prevent spikes in blood sugar, and they are also filling, helping you to snack less.
Pregnant women especially should eat plenty of whole grains because they are a rich source of folate, which helps to prevent birth defects. Whole grains are also a good source of iron, which many women need an extra boost of.
What grains should you eat?
Hailed as a super-food, quinoa is more popular than ever. It is gluten-free and is a complete protein containing all eight amino acids. In fact, the protein content per 100 calories is higher than brown rice, potatoes and barley, but less than oats. It’s high in iron, fibre and easy on the stomach too. Quinoa is pretty perfect and more and more people are starting to realise the benefits of this super-grain.
High in protein and fibre, a bowl of porridge is the best breakfast you can have. Oats release energy slowly, which will keep you going until lunch time. A bowl of porridge can lower cholesterol quite significantly, which in turn lowers your chances of stroke and heart disease. Starting the day with a breakfast that stabilises blood sugar like oats, helps to keep blood sugar levels stable throughout the rest of the day and this helps to prevent type 2 diabetes. A bowl of porridge also provides you the chance to get a portion of fruit into your day – just top it with blueberries or banana slices and a drizzle of honey to sweeten.
Spelt is an ancient grain and references to it appear in Roman texts and the Old Testament. It was commonly a ‘peasant grain’ but in recent years wheat became more popular and overshadowed it. Spelt is higher in fibre than wheat and its gluten content on a molecular level is different, making it easier to digest. Today it is becoming popular again due to its nutritional benefits. Unlike wheat where most nutritional value is lost during processing, spelt retains its nutrients. It’s also higher in protein and fibre than wheat and will make a very light loaf of bread.
Not really a grain, but a seed, buckwheat is milled as a flour and is gluten-free. It’s popular for making crepes and is high in flavonoids which help protect us against disease. It’s also a very good source of magnesium which lowers blood pressure and improves blood flow. As it is gluten-free it can be a good substitute for oats, rye and barley.
Popular in tabbouleh and other salads, 100g of bulgur contains roughly 18% of your recommended daily fibre intake. It’s therefore a great substitute for rice. Although it’s a wheat and not gluten-free like quinoa, it has less calories, less carbohydrates, less sodium and more fibre. So those who can eat gluten, should try to eat more bulgur than quinoa. Bulgur can be added to soups and casseroles or if put through a grinder, can be used to make breads and other baked goods.
Written by Ruth Tongue