During the month of September, the Whole Grains Council celebrated Whole Grains Month. Not many foods get their own holiday, but whole grains definitely deserve it.
Health experts like naturopathic physician Dr. James Rouse describe whole grains as superfoods that really pack that nutritional punch we’re all seeking. If you’re looking for more foods that can help you feel your best, grains may be an excellent choice. In fact, a lengthy list of studies compiled by the Whole Grains Council have shown that these superfoods can:
• Optimize heart function
• Improve your mood
• Help your gut microorganisms work at their best
• Improve your body’s insulin sensitivity
They’re one of those nutrient-packed foods that doesn’t get the attention it deserves, due largely in part to the “campaign against the grain” that’s been recently seen in the natural health sphere. But unlike whole wheat, did you know that some whole grains are actually a very smart choice when it comes to feeding your body the fuel it needs?
With countless other benefits, it’s clear that your body can benefit from adding the goodness of whole grains into your daily diet.
Besides making for a scrumptious meal, whole grains are also experts at feeding your ecosystem of bacteria in your body, also known as your microbiome.
It may surprise you to know that the average human houses trillions of live, beneficial bacteria in the gut environment alone. These bacteria are vital for maintaining optimal health but often struggle to survive thanks to our modern diets that are high in processed foods. Adding whole grains to your daily intake can go a long way toward feeding your microbial friends.
You see, whole grains are loaded with prebiotics which are indigestible fibers that support the growth of the good bacteria within your microbiome. While they may not be digestible to you, they’re a great snack for the tiny bacteria caring for you day in and day out.
From rice and buckwheat to quinoa and millet, there are a wide variety of whole grains availabile—but these three are the most touted for feeding your microbiota:
Whole grain oats.
A small study in Utah recently discovered that mice who consumed whole grain oat flour for eight weeks had significantly different microbiota than those who ate refined oat flour. The mice consuming the whole grain oat flour had twice as many Lactobacillaceae (a beneficial gut bacteria). This group also optimized their insulin sensitivity and blood pressure levels. Oatmeal can also help to regulate your cholesterol1.
Since buckwheat is high in magnesium and fiber, it provides many benefits to both your digestive health and overall wellbeing. A study that took place in Spain in 2003 found that the group fed buckwheat emerged with a lower body weight and more beneficial bacteria—which in turn led to them feeling generally healthier and more energized2. Naturally gluten free, you can cook buckwheat by boiling or steaming it and mixing with vegetable options like asparagus, mushrooms, or rosemary.
Maize is the Native American term for corn. Since many American households eat processed corn products, the corn we consume is far less nutritious compared to Native American maize. However, high-quality non-GMO corn products can provide fiber, B vitamins, and 10 times more vitamin A than other grains. A study published in the British Journal of Nutrition found that participants who ate whole grain maize cereal for 21 days saw a significant increase in their levels of Bifidobacteria3. To buy the unprocessed kind, make sure to look for products with the Whole Grains Council, and that don't contain the words, “de-germed” or “instant.”
If you're looking to care for your microbiome, keep in mind that diet alone may not provide enough support, depending on your personal scenario. If you feel your gut health is being challenged by modern lifestyle factors such as stress, chlorine or the overuse of antibiotics, you may also want to focus on supporting your system by taking a high-quality probiotic like Hyperbiotics PRO-15 to maintain your beneficial bacteria.
Bottom line, there are so many reasons our ancestors were eating whole grains. As one of Mother Nature’s healthiest food options for humans, eating this superfood can help you feel your best. So, next time you’re at the store, grab a new whole grain that you haven’t tried before!
Be sure to check out Whole Grains Council on Instagram for a whole slew of recipes featuring the goodness of delicious whole grains. #sharewholegrainsReferences:
1. Zhou, A. L., Hergert, N., Rompato, G., & Lefevre, M. (2014). Whole Grain Oats Improve Insulin Sensitivity and Plasma Cholesterol Profile and Modify Gut Microbiota Composition in C57BL/6J Mice. Journal of Nutrition, 145(2), 222-230.
2. Préstamo, G., Pedrazuela, A., Peñas, E., Lasunción, M., & Arroyo, G. (2003). Role of buckwheat diet on rats as prebiotic and healthy food. Nutrition Research, 23(6), 803-814.
3. Carvalho-Wells, A. L., Helmolz, K., Nodet, C., Molzer, C., Leonard, C., Mckevith, B., . . . Tuohy, K. M. (2010). Determination of the in vivo prebiotic potential of a maize-based whole grain breakfast cereal: A human feeding study. British Journal of Nutrition, 104(09), 1353-1356.
Julie Hays is the Communications Director here at Hyperbiotics. Health writer and mama of two little girls, Julie's on a mission to empower others to live lives free of the microbial depletion many of us face today. For more ideas on how you can maximize wellness and benefit from the power of probiotics, be sure to subscribe to our newsletter.
Do you have a favorite whole grain recipe? We’d love to hear from you!