Confused About Whether You Should Be Eating Grains?

Are you confused about whether or not you should include grain products in your diet?

In the world of diet and nutrition there is often conflicting information to be found. Grains, and products made from them, are a very common topic of discussion. Most of us are confused about these sources of carbohydrates and what their place in our diet is. Simply, there is no one definitive answer to the Grain Conundrum that works for everyone.

Grains and food products made from them, such as bread, pasta, and many other products provide us with Carbohydrate, fibre and some nutrients such as B vitamins and a few minerals. All of these can be readily obtained from other food sources with the right dietary planning.

Does this make grains redundant? Potentially yes and no. It depends on you and your individuality:

  • Age 
  • Metabolic make up 
  • Activity levels
  • Digestive function
  • Current health conditions
  • Desired health outcomes.

If you are young, lean, active, are in optimal health and have no apparent digestive issues, then grains, mainly in their whole grain form, have a place. Your food intake needs to be well balanced, devoid of an excess of processed foods and chock full of vegetables, fruit, nuts and seeds and sufficient high quality proteins.

Excessive consumption of grains (especially refined) and their related products, is linked to increased levels of systemic inflammation, hormonal imbalances, weight gain and digestive disturbance. These types of foods should be sometimes foods with nutrient dense foods such as vegetables, nuts and seeds, animal proteins and sources of healthy fats being the go to.

A diet rich in a large variety of vegetables, raw and cooked, along with moderate nuts/seeds and fruit will provide the good quality fibre, carbohydrates that grains otherwise would but have added nutritional benefit of extra vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, phytonutrients and essential fats.

If you have digestive or health issues including obesity, high cholesterol, autoimmune disorders, inflammatory conditions then grains would be one of the things worth avoiding or at least be cautious of.

My advice is if you are going to eat grains, they should be mainly be whole grains. This does not include wholegrain bread or pasta. These are grains that are in their whole state, or close to, such as brown/wild rice, buckwheat groats, quinoa (although technically a seed), millet, amaranth oats and barley (if you can tolerate gluten). Sticking to limited portion sizes i.e. 1-2 small serves per day will prevent over-consumption and it's associated pitfalls.

Movement is the key to ensuring you use up the extra glucose that these starchy foods provide, rather than storing it as body fat. Optimal times for consuming grains are after endurance exercise to help replenish muscle glycogen stores or with an evening meal to aid with blood sugar control overnight and promote a restful sleep