Grains are an essential part of this healthy eating plan because carbohydrates provide fuel for the body. But not all carbs are created equal. Whole grains (as opposed to refined grains) are considered good carbs because they contain important nutrients like fiber, which helps slow down digestion, stabilize blood-sugar levels, and ward off hunger and cravings. Studies show that eating whole grains instead of refined grains can help to lower total cholesterol, LDL (“bad”) cholesterol, and high triglyceride and insulin levels.
Why Whole Grains?
What exactly does it mean when something is labeled whole grain? It means that the entire kernel of the grain, which is made up of the bran, germ, and endosperm, is left intact during processing. Each part of the grain has different health properties, including fiber, minerals, and antioxidants.
Refined grains, on the other hand, like those found in white bread, white rice, white pasta, and certain snack foods, are highly processed, which means that the healthful bran and germ have been removed. While processing increases a product’s shelf life, it also makes the grain essentially devoid of fiber and other nutrients.
Not only are refined grains less nutritious, they are digested more quickly. The result? Large swings in blood-sugar levels, cravings for more refined carbs, and constant hunger. Whole grains help you overcome these.
Choosing the Best
There are many excellent whole-grain choices, so how do you choose the healthiest? For starters, when buying whole-grain pastas, breads, and other products, be sure to check that the label says “100% whole wheat” or “whole grain.” If the label uses words like “multigrain” or “100% wheat,” there’s no guarantee that the product is truly whole grain. Also make sure that the product contains 3 grams of sugar or less per serving and has no trans fats.
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