By Johanna Burani, MS, RD, CDE
Whole grains are natural carbohydrates that keep all the parts of the entire grain, even after processing. Some examples of whole grains are corn, barley, brown rice, buckwheat, whole oats and 100% whole-wheat breads and crackers. When you eat them, your body gets all the good nutrients they contain. That’s why whole grains are so good for everyone— with or without diabetes.
WHAT ARE THE THREE PARTS OF WHOLE GRAINS?
Bran: This is the outer shell that protects the grain from insects, chemicals in the air and strong winds and rain. The bran layer has B vitamins, fiber, minerals and some disease-fighting products called phytochemicals.
Endosperm: This is the inside part of the grain, mostly made up of starch and sugar. It also has some B vitamins and protein.
Germ: This is the innermost part of the grain, which has the seed. It is made up of B vitamins, vitamin E, heart-healthy unsaturated fat and phytochemicals.
The best way to know if a grain is a whole grain is to look at its food label. The first term on the list of ingredients should include the word whole. Some examples are whole oats, whole rye or whole wheat. Also, 100% whole grain on a food label means the food contains a whole grain, but it doesn’t mean that it contains only whole grains. Another good clue: A whole grain food product will have at least 3 grams of dietary fiber per serving.
HOW DO WHOLE GRAINS HELP PEOPLE WITH DIABETES?
- The body gets more vitamins, minerals and fiber from whole grains than from refined or processed grains.
- Whole grains help you feel fuller for a longer time between meals. You may eat less food as a result, which helps control your weight and your diabetes.
- Whole grains help stop blood glucose spikes so you can have better control of your blood glucose levels.
- Whole grains may help you lower your cholesterol level and improve heart health.
- The high-fiber content in whole grains helps your body have regular bowel movements.
HOW CAN I ADD MORE WHOLE GRAINS TO MY DIET?
Choose high-fiber, ready-to-eat cold cereals that are not highly processed and that have whole kernels or seeds.
Look for heavy, dark breads with whole grains that you can see in each slice.
Add barley, corn, quinoa or bulgar to soups, stews and salads, or use these whole grains as a side dish.
Use full (100%) whole-wheat flour, or whole cornmeal, when you prepare tortillas, pizza crust, bread or some sweets.
Use whole-wheat pasta and brown rice.