By :- Ms. Renu Puri & Ms. Vanshika Saigal
Our body requires constant energy to carry out our daily routine effectively. This energy is provided to the body from the food we eat during the day. Each part of our food serves different functions. While the proteins help our body to make new cells, vitamins and antioxidants give the body greater immunity towards fighting diseases. However, the major energy source for our body remains the carbohydrates, which we derive from eating our staple grains.
The journey of grains from then till now
If only we had just stuck to eating our native grains in their original, unpolished and unprocessed form, like our ancestors did!!! However, because of modern day technology and the shift in the desirable features, most of the grains that we eat are in their polished and processed form. The grain goes through a number of treatments before it becomes part of our meal, losing most of its nutritive value on the way.
Earlier, flour was milled at the local chakki where small amounts were milled and consumed immediately as they did not have long shelf life. To increase the shelf life of grains, millers began to refine it more and more. The end result gave us shiny, ready to eat grains but with most of its nutritive benefits taken away.
Whole grains or refined grains?
There are basically two kinds of grains, whole grains and refined grains. Grain in its original form is a complete storehouse of fiber, nutrient and vitamins. Whole grains are intact in structure and contain the kernel, bran, germ and the endosperm of the grain like barley, millets, and quinoa. Refined grains like Maida etc. however, are milled by removing the bran and the germ, along with many of its health benefits.
From the time it starts to be milled and becomes refined, it starts to lose its goodness. By the time it reaches consumers, it has lost many of its nutritive facets especially fiber, iron and vitamin B, which are the main ingredients for which people consume grains in the first place.
The changing glycemic index
The glycemic index which regulates the sugar and energy content of our body works best with foods having low glycemic index of 55 or lower. Coarse grains have low glycemic index and provide good fiber and energy to the body and are also easy to digest. However, with more refined form of food, it increases in value above 70, thus adding empty calories without any benefit to the body.
Myths of grain fortification
Nowadays more and more companies claim to be adding vitamins, minerals and other nutrients to their refined grain products. Although this may replace some of the lost nutrients, it can never totally compensate for the original nutritive values of any product. The fiber anyway cannot be added back to the grain.
Multigrain bread vs popcorn
It is essential to read the labelling on any product that one buys, even from health stores, for e.g. the bread that we buy is made of actual whole grain flour or its refined form. Even the multigrain breads can contain huge amounts of refined flour and it is essential to know if the grain is added in its coarse form or refined form. So not only ingredients but their form in the food item needs to be read carefully.
Eating popcorn- A snack like Popcorns, made with a traditional method like ‘Dry roasting (in sand or by itself) is quite healthy. Only by adding excessive butter, salt and other additives like caramel etc. makes it an unhealthy choice of snack.
So just dry roasted popcorn is an excellent form in which to have grains and makes it a nutritional snack.
How to adapt to the nutritious form of grains in our daily diet:
It is not easy to completely switch to whole grains in one go, so the trick is to gradually bring the shift in the forms of grains for e.g. white rice can be slowly replaced by brown rice in our diet.
Instead of ready to eat oats, diamond-cut oats or steel-cut oats or even better, Oat-groats should be included in the breakfast.
For crumbing anything like cutlets, instead of normal breadcrumbs, crumbs made from whole wheat bread or crackers should be used.
For making bread croutons, one should replace it with whole wheat bread or multigrain bread or even crackers.
One of the easiest way to increase fiber content in our meals is by mixing different kinds of grains together and making rotis out of it. Each grain has its own nutritive elements and by combining them, one can get much more balanced nutrition than by using just one kind of grain. This is one of the easiest and the effective ways to optimize grain intake in our diets, without making any dramatic changes.
The goal should be to have a balanced diet with more and more coarse grains added to our meals. They should comprise the biggest portion, on our plates, for every meal which should ideally be 1/3 of our food intake as they are the major source of energy.