As we deal with the consequences of our sedentary lifestyle and the resultant declining health, the focus has entirely shifted on what we are eating. For Indians, grains are the major contributor to what goes on their plate. But what exactly are grains? Grains are small dry seeds from plants called cereals, which could be with or without a fruit layer. Needless to say that the grains are cultivated to meet the needs of not just human consumption but also for animal consumption as they are known to be the most preferred food source across the globe. Wheat, rice and corn (maize) are the popular varieties.
Moreover, grains are known to last longer as well. After harvesting, dry grains are more durable than other staples, such as starchy fruits such as breadfruit and plantains and tubers like cassava and sweet potatoes. Now that we have touched upon the foundation of what makes them durable and most preferred, we should also check upon on how nutritious are they really.
There are two main types of grain crops - cereals and legumes
A whole grain has three main parts - Bran, the hard outer layer of the grain contains fibre, minerals and antioxidants, whereas the second component germ is the nutrient-rich core that contains carbs, fats, proteins, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and various phytonutrients. It is basically the embryo of the plant and thus gives rise to a new plant. The last component is endosperm which contains mostly carbs in the form of starch and protein.
Some grains, such as oats are usually consumed whole. Other grains could be eaten in a refined state. Many of the grains are mostly eaten only after they have been processed into a different form or converted into a very fine flour which also includes wheat. Now that we have covered how they are made and consumed, it is easier to see how it will affect the body.
Why grains are hard to digest?
- There are two types of proteins found in grains, Gluten and Lectins which are hard to digest. Gluten is found in barley, rye and wheat which many found hard to digest. Other grains contain lectins, that may also be hard to digest. The inability to digest gluten can lead to a variety of symptoms including stomach cramps, bloating and even diarrhoea.
- Raw Legumes have high lectin content. Therefore eating Raw Legumes can be harmful. Because raw or undercooked legumes can cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea and bloating, but when cooked properly, lectins are destroyed.
How to eat grains for maximum benefit from grains?
- Let’s start from the most basic food item, we Indians tend to have on our plate - chappatis. Make sure you to incorporate whole grains like whole wheat, bajra, jowar, and ragi as healthy alternatives instead of flour. Those who are partial to idlis can use brown rice and ragi after boiled/steaming.
- When it comes to cereals, oats, wheat flakes, whole wheat bread, quinoa and corn flakes are healthy breakfast foods. One could also opt for bread made of rye or whole wheat pitas and pizza bases. However, one should check the label to be sure before buying them. Also, one could give the whole wheat pasta a try for a mixture of refined pasta and whole wheat.
- Light snacking can be taken care of popcorn made from whole wheat. One should, however, make sure that large quantities of salt, sugar or fatty items are not added.
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