What is good about grains?
The main nutrient in grains is starch, which is a type of carbohydrate and a source of calories. Grains and grain products are an easy source of energy or fuel for your body, as your body can digest and use many of them fairly quickly.
Whole grains are linked to a variety of health benefits . People who eat more whole grains are more likely to maintain a healthy body weight and less likely to have mortality from cardiovascular disease, cancer, or inflammatory conditions such as gout and rheumatoid arthritis. Type 2 diabetes and diverticulosis are also less likely among people who regularly eat whole grains.
Grains are also sources of essential nutrients. Whole grains can be natural sources of some B vitamins, iron, copper, and potassium, as well as dietary fiber. These nutrients are mostly in the parts of the grain kernel called the bran and the germ.
Refined grains have been stripped of the nutrient-rich bran and germ, leaving only the starchy endosperm, but they contain essential nutrients. By law, grains such as rice and flour, which is used to make products such as bread, are fortified with vitamins B1 (thiamin), B2 (riboflavin), and B3 (niacin), folic acid, and iron.
Why do “grains” not count as a Lark superfood?
The Lark app gives out green badges for whole grains, but not for refined grains. That is because while both are high in carbs and calories, whole grains are linked to many health benefits, while refined grain consumption does not appear to be as beneficial. When you earn badges, you will see them appear in your lark chat.
Those same starches that serve as an easy source of energy also serve as an easy source of extra calories if you eat too much. Any time you eat more calories than you need, the extra gets stored as body fat. Whether it is a plate of pasta, bag of pretzels, or box of cereal, having too much leads to weight gain.
Another drawback of refined grains is their glycemic index, or effect on your blood sugar. Refined grains tend to lead to fast and high spikes in blood sugar, which is extra problematic in prediabetes and diabetes. In addition, sharp spikes can lead to sharp drops, which can leave you feeling tired and hungry, or even be dangerous if you have diabetes.
Grains and grain products
Grains are everywhere. They are in the form of grains, flour and products containing flour, and processed products. These are some sources of grains.
- Oats*,** and oatmeal*,**
- White and whole-wheat* flour
- White and whole-wheat* sliced bread, pita, bagels, English muffins, tortillas
- Refined and whole-grain* breakfast cereal
- White and brown* rice and products such as rice cakes and puffed rice
- Buckwheat*,** noodles
- White and whole-wheat* and buckwheat*,** pasta
- Teff,*,** barley,* amaranth,*,** bulgur,*,** quinoa,*,** farro*
- Crackers, pretzels, popcorn*,**
** gluten-free grain
Tips for getting the most from your grains
- Serving sizes are key. A serving is about 1 slice of bread, ½ cup of cooked grain or pasta, or 1 ounce of pretzels or crackers.
- Eating non-starchy vegetables, a source of lean protein, and/or some healthy fat with your grain can keep the glycemic index down.
- Along with fruit, beans, and starchy vegetables, grains count towards a standard goal of 1 to 3 servings of carbs per meal.
- Most grains have refined versions and whole-grain versions, which are usually a better choice.
- “Gluten-free” just means that the product does not have gluten, and it does not say anything about whether it is “healthy,” since it does not mean that the product is whole-grain or low in sugar or fat.
- Not all whole-grain products are as healthy as you might assume. Most flavored oatmeal packets and whole-grain cereals have sugar in them,
- “Made with whole grain” is a different claim than “100% whole grain” and can mean there is only a tiny amount of whole grain in the product. The best way to tell is to look at the list of ingredients to see if a whole grain is listed first.
- To increase iron absorption from fortified grains, eat them with a source of vitamin C, such as broccoli, tomatoes, oranges, kiwi, cantaloupe, or onion.