Staying Alive and Healthy

Maize grains

Medical experts advise that eating unprocessed grains like wheat, corn, oats, barley, sorghum among others daily reduces the risks of heart disease, stroke, cancer, diabetes and obesity in the consumer

By Chinwe Okafor  |  May 5, 2014 @ 01:00 GMT

Staying healthy for the rest of someone’s life means inculcating the habit of eating health-promoting foods. They could be vegetables, fruits and other low fatty, proteinous and energy giving foods among others. However, some of the most ignored foods around us have so many nutrients than the most sought-after ones. For instance, whole grains, that is, unprocessed grains, which do not necessarily cost much money to get, are found almost everywhere in the world.

According to health experts, grains are a healthy necessity in every diet, and that it’s important to eat whole grains most of the time. But the question is, what is a whole grain and why does it matter? Whole grains include grains like wheat, corn, rice, oats, barley, quinoa, sorghum, spelt, rye among others which are not processed. There is clear medical evidence that whole grains reduce the risks of heart disease, stroke, cancer, diabetes and obesity which few foods can offer such diverse benefits.

Wheat grains
Wheat grains

Ogochi Ezeh,a nutritionist in Enugu state, said that whole grains are an important source of many nutrients which include dietary fiber, several B vitamins such as thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, and folate, and minerals which include iron, magnesium, and selenium. She said that fiber is important for proper bowel function. It helps to reduce constipation and fiber-contained foods such as whole grains help to provide a feeling of fullness with fewer calories.

According to her, the B vitamins which are thiamin, riboflavin, and niacin play a key role in metabolism. They help the body release energy from protein, fat, and carbohydrates and are also essential for a healthy nervous system. “Folate which is folic acid, another B vitamin, helps the body form red blood cells. Women of childbearing age who may become pregnant should consume adequate folate from foods,” she said adding that whole grains are also sources of magnesium and selenium.

Studies have shown that people who eat whole grains regularly have a lower risk of obesity, as measured by their body mass index and waist-to-hip ratios. They also have lower cholesterol levels because of the phytochemicals and antioxidants contained in the grains. People who eat whole grains three times daily, have been shown to reduce their risk of heart disease by 25 to 36 percent, stroke by 37 percent, type II diabetes by 21 to 27 percent, digestive system cancers by 21 to 43 percent and hormone-related cancers by 10 to 40 percent.

Medical practitioners have also advised that eating whole grains instead of refined grains lowers the risk of many chronic diseases. While its benefits are most pronounced for those consuming at least three servings daily, some studies show reduced risks from as little as one serving daily. Its numerous benefits include reduction in the risk of asthma, building of healthier carotid arteries, reducing the risk of inflammatory diseases, lowering the risk of colorectal cancer, building of a healthier blood pressure level, protection against less gum disease and tooth loss

While three or more servings each day will optimise one’s health benefits, scientists and health experts agree that every bit of a whole grain one eats contributes to the maintenance of good health.

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