By separating the bran and the germ, cereals lose much of their beneficial health effects. On the other hand, the integrals preserve the richness and balance of the natural grain.
Whether because of their color, texture or social prestige, refined cereals displaced whole grains almost completely over the past century. But in recent years the demand for integral products has regained flight. In the eyes of many consumers, they are presented as a healthier alternative.
Also, some groups, such as vegetarians, have made a symbol of them and sometimes have exaggerated their properties. What can be said from a strictly nutritional perspective?
WHOLE GRAINS: BENEFITS
Refined oil impoverishes cereals, especially because the husk also removes the germ, the most valuable part of the grain, which white flour lacks. Whole grains contain more protein, fat, vitamins and minerals… in addition to fiber.
Most experts point out that, in general, the cereals of choice should be whole grains. They are not a panacea, but they can correct the tendency of current diets to be hypercaloric and poor in vitamins, minerals and fiber.
1. IMPROVE DIGESTION
One of the main arguments in its favor is that its fiber has important functions at the digestive level. Currently, a daily intake of 30 to 35 g of fiber is recommended, a figure that many people do not reach because they eat few vegetables or prefer refined ones. Taking whole grains helps in a very important way to meet that recommendation.
Deficiency in dietary fiber is one of the causes, although not the only one, that favors the appearance of constipation.
Among the soluble and insoluble fibers, the latter are the ones that are most related to the regulation of intestinal transit. This is precisely the type of fiber present mostly in whole grains.
It is also true that phytic acid, a component that accompanies fiber, has been pointed out as responsible for interfering with the bioavailability of minerals such as calcium, magnesium, iron or zinc.
However, recent research has shown the beneficial effects of this substance, such as its ability to lower the levels of glucose, cholesterol and fatty acids in the blood or its antioxidant potential that could protect against colon cancer.
With the knowledge available today, it can be said that whole grains are excellent foods.
2. REDUCES THE RISK OF CARDIOVASCULAR DISORDERS
Increasing the consumption of whole foods reduces the likelihood of cardiovascular disorders (because the intake of other high-fat foods is reduced), constipation (increases the speed of intestinal transit) and colon cancer (decreases exposure to carcinogenic residues of digestion).
3. THEY GAIN LESS WEIGHT
The energy value of whole foods is usually somewhat lower since they contain more fiber and less absorbable carbohydrates.
In turn, its fiber causes a feeling of satiety, which helps to consume smaller portions. But whether they gain weight or lose weight depends on the balance between calories ingested and spent.
4. REDUCES GLYCEMIC RESPONSE
Its fiber somewhat reduces the glycemic response in diabetics, but measures of the glycemic index (glucose rate after intake) are similar between whole grains and refined grains. However, integral ones are preferable.
ARE THERE LIMITS TO ITS CONSUMPTION?
Yes. Cereals are located at the base of the dietary pyramid, which indicates that it is the food group that should contribute more to the contribution of nutrients. Two or three servings a day are usually to the extent of what is correct.
A higher consumption can be detrimental to other foods and nutrients also important.
ARE INTEGRALS ALSO BIOLOGICAL?
No. Refining is one thing and organic production another. The term “organic” or “biological” refers to products in whose production and processing no chemical fertilizers or pesticides have been used.
As whole grains are taken in shell, they should be biological to avoid ingesting pesticides with it.
WHO DO THEY NOT SUIT?
To very young children, to the elderly or with delicate stomachs or in those cases in which the doctor deems it necessary to reduce fiber intake.
In deficiencies of minerals such as calcium, magnesium, iron and zinc or fat-soluble vitamins, the benefit-cost ratio of their intake should be considered.
ARE ALL WHOLE-GRAIN BREADS THE SAME?
No. The proportion of the whole grain determines the degree of extraction of the flour; When it is 100%, we talk about whole wheat flour, while if it is 70-74% it is commercial white flour.
Between these two extremes we can find all kinds of bread or other products derived from flour, more or less whole.
HOW CAN THEY BE INTEGRATED INTO THE DIET?
You can alternate white bread with whole meal, so that at least one serving is consumed daily.
Mueslis are another good resource to achieve this goal. Pizza bases can be wholemeal, or pasta. In any case it is a natural introduction, and both types can coexist in the diet.
WHY IS THE GERM OF THE GRAIN ADVISED?
Because it is the most nutritious part of the grain and an extraordinary source of vitamin E and essential fatty acids. But flour with germ is less preserved due in large part to those healthy fats.
There are many falsely whole meal breads and bakery products, made with white flour and fiber, but without germ.