The recent awareness about the importance of inclusion of whole grains in our diet has led to a wide range of so called ‘wholewheat’, ‘wholemeal’, ‘multigrain’ or ‘wholegrain’ products being available. However, most of these foods like bread, pasta, breakfast cereals, ready to eat parathas and rice, cakes and cookies are, at best, a mix of all purpose flour (maida) and some negligible amounts of wholewheat flour; sometimes, just a product with a brownish color achieved by the addition of molasses or caramel but completely devoid of the whole grain. To add to the confusion is the common misconception that ‘wholewheat’ is the same as ‘wholegrain’. It is like saying apples are the same as fruits–the fact is that apple is one of a kind of several different fruits. The same holds true for wheat or ‘wholewheat’–it is one of the several grains, which we have been traditionally eating in India, but have gotten lost somewhere in our wholehearted embracing of international white foods such as pasta, pizza, noodles, bread, cakes, cookies – all made from maida or refined wheat flour.
What is the big deal with whole grains? What is “whole grain goodness”? The Whole Grains Council, USA defines wholegrain such: “Whole grains or foods made from them contain all the essential parts and naturally-occurring nutrients of the entire grain seed in their original proportions. If the grain has been processed (e.g., cracked, crushed, rolled, extruded, and/or cooked), the food product should deliver the same rich balance of nutrients that are found in the original grain seed.”
Some of the guaranteed health benefits of whole grains are:
risk of stroke reduced by 30-36%
decreases the risk of type 2 diabetes by 25%,
decreases the risk of heart disease by 25%
Inclusion of whole grains in our regular diet also helps in better management of weight due to the instant increase in the amount of fiber consumed, which in turn leads to lesser hunger pangs and lower calorie intake. The maida products that have permeated our lifestyles are stripped of almost all of the nutrients and health benefits that whole grains, and provide our bodies with only fat and weight-increasing starch.
Don’t know any whole grains other than whole wheat? Here’s a list of traditionally consumed Indian grains:
Red or brown rice
Pearl Millet (Bajra)
Finger Millet (Ragi/Nachni)
Jungle Rice (Bhagar/ Varicha Tandul/ Samo seeds)
It makes a lot of sense to be consuming all of these grains in our regular diet apart from the standard atta chapatis and rice because most of them contain a higher level of nutrients like fiber, protein, iron, calcium, and some essential amino acids as compared to wheat. Grains like barley, pearl millet, corn, finger millet, Sorghum, etc. have been used to make rotis or bhakris across India; while amaranth and jungle rice (samo seeds) are common foods consumed during religious fasts. Grains like Oats, Quinoa, Buckwheat, Rye, Teff, Triticale, Bulgur Wheat, Farro, etc. are the lesser known ethnic foods but are fast becoming global favorites due to their nutrient-packed profiles. In fact, Bulgur wheat has more fiber than corn, oats, millet, or quinoa. Buckwheat, with its quick cooking ability (just about ten minutes) should make it an ideal dinner option in our fast-paced lifestyles.
Other ways of adding a whole grain boost to your diet are:
Add millet flours to sweet and savory pancakes
Make Ragi dosas (if buying an instant ready to make pack, make sure that it contains no trans fats and is low in fat)
Pearl millet khichadi
Samo seeds upma
Mixed grain parathas etc.
In India, (thankfully), we still have the tradition or option of getting our flour milled from the local miller or even doing it ourselves at home. This makes it easier to incorporate whole grains (without any adulteration) in our everyday diet. so one can get real whole grain flours and not ones that are falsely labeled so. If you don’t have the option of milling your own flours, you can buy a variety of organic whole grain flours that are easily available in most supermarkets and online food stores.
This post first appeared on Gourmet Table. This is a wonderful site for all things food. Check out the article here.