Whole grains are a staple food group that you must include in any plant-based meal because they are an important source of carbohydrates. Also, there are many health benefits when you consume them. So, all vegans and vegetarians include them in their diet. Having said that, many people consume refined grains when following plant-based diets because of their better taste, and as they are easy to cook. The purpose of this article is to guide you with including more whole grains in your plant-based diet.
What Is Whole Grain?
Whole grains are the grain part of cereals and pseudo cereal plants, and they consist of endosperm, germ, and bran; the three parts have different nutrient content. Cooking, rolling, crushing, or cracking will retain these parts.
What Is Refined Grain?
In refined grain, one or two parts of the whole grain are removed. Usually, food manufacturers remove the bran and germ of refined grains, leaving behind the endosperm. Because of this, their overall nutritional profile is lower than that of whole grains. As the bran is removed, refined grains and products made using them taste better. Furthermore, for healthy meal prep, you must reduce the amount of refined grains used.
What Is The Difference Between Processing And Refining Grains?
Processing the grain does not remove its constituent parts, but only transforms it into a different form. Also, it increases the bioavailability of nutrients contained in whole grains as it removes some of the antinutrients as well. Some of the methods for processing grains are crushing, rolling, soaking, heating, etc. On the other hand, refining removes the constituent parts of the whole grain, and this decreases its nutritional value. Because of this, health professionals and dieticians ask people to reduce the consumption of refined grains and increase the consumption of whole grains to have better health benefits.
What Are The Health Benefits Of Whole Grains?
Listed below are the main health benefits of whole grains:
- Lower body weight
- Reduction in systemic inflammation
- Reduction in risk of heart diseases
- Reduction in risk of developing type 2 diabetes
The health benefits that are associated with grain consumption are almost always linked to whole grains. Also, many studies recommend replacing refined grains with whole grains in a plant-based diet and otherwise. This is especially important as grains are a major source of carbohydrates in any diet. However, you must not consume them beyond a certain limit as their excessive consumption can lead to the development of metabolic disorders and diabetes.
The Nutritional Content Of Whole Grains
The three constituent parts of whole grains have different nutritional content, and they are listed in detail below.
- B vitamins
- B vitamins
- Vitamin E
- Healthy fats
Apart from these nutrients, whole grains also contain selenium depending on the soil in which the grain is grown. Having said that, you must know that whole grain crops absorb the chemicals or contaminants in the soil, and this affects their nutritional value. So, it is better to buy food products that are made with organically grown grains.
The Nutritional Content Of Refined Grains
In most refined grains, the bran and germ are removed, and this results in lower nutritional content. The lost nutrients are minerals like iron, magnesium, and zinc, along with fiber, antioxidants, phytochemicals, vitamin E, and B vitamins. It must be obvious to you why it is better to reduce the use of refined grains in healthy meal prep. Moreover, in countries like Canada, it is mandatory to fortify refined flour, breakfast cereals, pasta, and pre-cooked rice with iron and B vitamins.
The Importance Of Whole Grains In Plant-Based Diets
Those who follow plant-based diets, especially the vegan diet, are prone to developing certain nutrient deficiencies like iron, zinc, and B vitamins. To avoid this, vegans must include whole grains in their diet. To increase the bioavailability of iron, it is recommended to add vitamin C containing food in the meal. Also, cooking, fermenting, sprouting, and soaking whole grains improves the absorption of zinc.
Whole Grains To Include In Plant-Based Meal
The most widely consumed grains are wheat, rice, and oats because they can be easily cultivated and processed. The other two common grains consumed are barley and quinoa; the latter one became popular with the rise in popularity of the vegan diet.
Listed below are whole grains that you can include in your plant-based diet:
- Brown rice*
- Wild rice*
Note: The whole grains with an asterisk are gluten-free and suitable for those who have a gluten allergy. Gluten is found in wheat, and it gives a doughy texture when you mix wheat flour with water.
We hope that this article will help you with getting the maximum health benefits from whole grains that you consume in your plant-based meal.