What is the difference between refined and unrefined grains?

Grains, cereals, beans, nuts, and other seeds should be the cornerstone or centerpiece of a diet to support the health of your heart. However, for maximum goodness nutritionally and in taste and texture, they must be unrefined. You should limit your eating of white bread or cookies to rare occasions.

Historically, before the advent of roller milling in the late 1800s, which made it easy to produce the very white flour that is so prevalent today, populations ate hearty whole grains. These had flavor, texture, and all the natural, wholesome goodness that nature put into the grain. Even the white flour made from old stone mills and sifted at home to remove some of the bran was preferable to the white flour of today, as some of the bran and germ came through the oldfashioned sieves. The good fibers, proteins, vitamins like vitamin E, and minerals are in the germ or bran of the wheat. The wheat germ also contains a large number of newly discovered, precious phytochemicals that we are now finding are beneficial to health and that are absent from white flour. A wide variety ofwhole grain breads, pastas, and cereals is available today and there is no reason not to make them a key part of your diet.
For similar reasons, white rice is not the best choice. It has been polished and the fiber and B vitamins of the outer layer removed. It is the polishing of brown rice that caused an epidemic of the disease called beriberi in Asia. This was such a public health problem that, in the early 1900s, it led to the discovery of the first vitamin, thiamine or B 1? in the outer layers of brown rice. Barley, another ancient grain and a basic food in Roman times, is now polished to various degrees, again causing it to lose its fiber and vitamins.

No matter what grain you choose, always go for the whole grain!

What are Grains???

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Is it true that fiber lowers cholesterol and keeps me healthy? 

It’s true. There are many types of fibers found in plants, some of which lower cholesterol. The fibers found in oats, dry beans and lentils, dried peas, and fresh and dried fruits like raisins all lower cholesterol. Other fibers, such as those found in whole grains and their products like whole wheat bread and cereals, help to prevent constipation, improve intestinal function, and keep the colon healthy by reducing the likelihood of some diseases like colon cancer. Vegetables contain a mixture of both kinds of fiber.

There are some good fiber supplements, too. Many natural concentrated fibers like certain gums from plants, often with exotic names like guar, have been used in cholesterol lowering supplements. Most of these supplements come in powder form and are based either on a single fiber like guar gum, pectin, or psyllium seed, or on a mixture of various gums. The easiest and probably the best way to take them is as a drink by stirring a tablespoon of the powder in a glass of cold water. The liquid tends to thicken after mixing, so drink it right away.

Can beans, soy, and lentils help me lower my cholesterol? 

Yes, beans, soy, lentils, and peas contain the kind of fiber that can lower cholesterol. If you are not used to eating beans or lentils, you may experience some gas until you get adjusted, but there are so many varieties of beans and lentils that you are sure to find one that will not cause gas after you have eaten it for a few days. You may find it easier to start with lentils and its close relative the chickpea (also called garbanzo beans) and then begin to eat beans. Avoid beans prepared with saturated fat products like sausages as they often cause more gas.

Can food help me lower my blood homocysteine? 

Folic acid, B 12 , and B 6 are three B vitamins that help lower this risk factor, and the table below will guide you in selecting foods rich in each of them. Folic acid is on top of the list, and good sources are lentils, beans, dark green vegetables, and fortified breakfast cereals. It may be useful to take a supplement that contains these vitamins, as some people find it difficult to get enough folic acid from foods. Use either a complete vitamin mineral supplement or a B-complex supplement.

What about those phytochemicals everyone is talking about? 

Beginning in the 1970s with the discovery of the value of fiber and continuing in the late 1980s and 1990s with the identification of a long list of protective phytochemicals, our knowledge has grown far beyond the classic nutrition world of proteins, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals. We have discovered that there are literally hundreds and most likely thousands of different compounds found in plant foods called phytochemicals (phyto comes from the Greek word for plant) that are biologically active in humans and animals. Just a few years ago, these compounds were thought merely to give color or flavor or to act as natural preservatives. Today we know that many of them help to prevent oxidation of blood cholesterol, which makes cholesterol more damaging.

Phytochemicals, like most everything else in nature and science, have complicated names, such as phenolics, flavonoids, phytoestrogens, and lycopene. However, they aren’t usually listed on food labels. But the good news is that they all come packaged naturally, in nature’s proper combinations, and in abundance when you make the right food choices. They work together with some powerful antioxidants, such as beta carotene, vitamin C, vitamin E, zinc, and selenium.

Much research is still needed on the health benefits of the thousands of phytochemicals in unrefined plant foods, but you cannot go wrong by consuming an abundance of foods rich in phytochemicals.


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