Boost your Immunity with Whole Grains
Whole grains benefit the digestive/detoxification, musculoskeletal, and respiratory immune centers.
The way we do anything is the way we do everything, yoga masters tell us. Just so. Take bread, for example: are you the “spelt today, sprouted rye tomorrow” type? Or the “white bread all the time” type? Only 5 percent of the grain foods in our diet are whole grains. If you’re typical, you’re eating only half the whole grains you really need to keep all your immune centers firing. Plenty of us have a half-baked diet. Fewer than 8 percent of adults get three or more whole-grain servings daily. But swap that white rice for brown basmati or quinoa, for example, and make that wrap whole wheat, and you could start lowering your stroke risk by as much as 50 percent, suggests studies such as the Nurses’ Health Study.
Whole grains mean a lot more than wheat these days, no matter how you slice it. To get your whole grains, enjoy wheat, rye, barley, oats, amaranth, buckwheat, corn, and quinoa.
Eating the whole grain (bran, germ, and endosperm) version of whatever it is under your peanut butter, curry, or steamed vegetables helps prevent several cancers, diabetes, high cholesterol, and weight gain, in addition to strokes. Grains can give you a longer lease on life. According to the Iowa Women’s Health Study, women who ate at least one serving of a whole grain daily lowered their overall mortality risk by 14 to 19 percent. In a similar study of Finnish men, eating more whole-grain rice tracked with fewer deaths from all causes.
Some whole grains do it—lengthen your life, protect your heart, prevent cancer—a whole lot better than others. Rice, barley, couscous, and oats are all low-GI (glycemic index) foods, which means they have minimal effects on blood sugar and insulin (unlike high-GI offenders like baked potatoes and white bread).
The Whole Truth
- Most grains are actually grasses. One family includes wheat, rye, barley, and oats; a second group includes amaranth and buckwheat.
- Corn is actually a grass that we eat as a vegetable.
- Quinoa is an herb eaten like a grain.
- Only two grains—amaranth and quinoa—are complete proteins, providing all sixteen amino acids just like dairy and meat.
- Oats contain more fat (polyunsaturated and monounsaturated) than any other grain.
EMS for LDL. Hypertension, the most important risk factor for a stroke, happens less often to those who keep their fiber up. In grains, that fiber comes bound up with vitamin E, a major nutrient for preventing stroke and lowering homocysteine, another coronary risk factor. Highest scores for fiber go to triticale (8.7 g per 1/4 cup serving), barley (8 g), and amaranth (7.4 g). Brown rice scores 0.9 (but that’s still five times the fiber of white rice). The fiber in barley contains beta-glucans, which are polysaccharides (also found in mushrooms, oats, and yeast) that activate immune cells, lower cholesterol, slow aging, and fight cancer.
Oats, Barley, and Diabetes. Polishing off three servings of whole grains daily protects you against developing type 2 diabetes by improving insulin sensitivity. In tests, fasting insulin was in fact 10 percent lower when unrefined grains like oats, barley, and wheat were on the menu. Make it barley, and you get chromium, important for keeping blood glucose stable.
Good Gut Reactions. Grains high in insoluble fiber, like spelt and rye, help prevent conditions like IBS and gallstones. Rye, brown rice, and other grains are also rich in lignans, which establish a healthy flora in the intestines, and these in turn are prescriptive for breast and other cancers and heart disease.
Fewer Pounds, More Protein. Have some quinoa (pronounced “keen-wa”) with that reduced-calorie fruit salad. This millet-sized seed is a complete protein, containing all sixteen amino acids, and it has more satiety value (i.e., fills you up) than the rice or wheat you usually eat.
Buying, Storing, and Preparing Whole Grains
- Most grains can beprepared like rice. Rinse first, cover with water, bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and cook until soft. Use a two-to-one ratio for quinoa, amaranth, millet, and buckwheat; use a three-to-one ratio for oats and barley. Use too much water rather than too little. You can always pour off any excess.
- Get organic when you can. The toxic chemical sulfuryl fluoride is used as a pesticide when storing conventional grains, fruit, and nuts.
- Avoiding gluten? hTat still leaves flours, breads, and crackers made from millet, amaranth, quinoa, corn, teff, and flours made from beans like soybeans and chickpeas.
- To shorten the cooking time of whole grains, toast first or presoak.