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Are refined grains any good?

Refined grains and their food products are not so good for your health.

These refined foods you love so much are not healthy at all. Here is the main reason why?

Why are refined grain foods not healthy?

Are whole grains better than refined grains
Grains in the field by Tetyana Kovryina from Pexel Photos

A recent study published in the British Medical Journal shows that eating more refined grains increases the risks of heart attacks and early death!

The researchers in this study analysed several diets from low, medium and low income countries. And the study showed that eating a refined grain rich diet increases cardiovascular disease risks and early death. The dietary refined grains have been shown to increase risks of strokes, cardiac arrest, high blood, pressure, atherosclerosis and coronary heart diseases.

Also read: 9. Amazing heart healthy foods you should eat

According, to this recent study, consumption of refined grains is increasing each year. And this has resulted in an increase in cardiovascular disease risks and early death.

In the study grains are classified as refined grains, whole grains and white rice. And the selected refined grains included foods made with refined grains. Some of the refined grain foods are in the list below.

But  first, lets define refined grains!

What are refined grains?

Refined grains are grains in which the fibrous and nutrient parts of the cereal seeds have been removed. Only the bran remains as everything has been removed by processing.

Let me give you a list of refined grains that may affect your health.

Refined grains that may increase your health risks

Refined grains such as those found below have been shown to be associated with increased heart healthy risks. These include those found in:

  • White bread
  • Croissants
  • Refined cereals (include break fast cereals)
  • Refined/white rice
  • Dehulled cereals (include maize meal, wheat meal, refined oats, barley etc.)
  • Refined flour
  • Pasta
  • Spaghetti
  • Instant cereals
  • Crackers
  • Bakery products
  • Desserts

According to this study, eating more than 7 servings of refined grains a day increases health risks as follows.
Risk of early death by 27%
Greater risks of heart attacks by 33%
Greater risks of stroke by 47%

Note: 1 serving of carbohydrates is equal to 15 grams carbohydrates in the meal. Now, these refined grains are energy dense so the negative healthy effects are dose dependent. This means the more refined grains you eat the higher the dangers!

This study shows a strong evidence supporting the fact that refined grains are dangers to human health if you overeat them.

How do refined grains influence cardiovascular health and early dealth?

In these grains most of the fibre and nutrients have been removed and they are considered empty. Because they provide empty calories. They also have a high glycemic index. This means they can increase post meal glucose and insulin levels. This also means that, they can be digested quickly in the gut. As a result, you have a shorter time of satiety which triggers overeating. And overeating increases excess calories in the body. These excess calories are directed towards fat deposition in all the bad places. And this is what increases disease risks!

All this increases risks of insulin resistance, diabetes mellitus, metabolic syndrome and early death. This also leads to increased risks of cardiovascular diseases, obesity and weight gain.

A nightmare of refined grains

Most people in Africa and Asia get about 70% of their energy from cereals.  Developed regions only get 50% of the energy from cereals. Now if you can look at it and imagine 70% of the energy coming from refined grains. And these grains being very energy dense. This gives you a clear picture of why cases of weight gain, obesity and chronic diseases are on the rise. Why?

Because with such a diet most of the people will more likely have excess dietary calories. And as explained above the adverse effects of these excess calories are never good.

What drives the use of refined grains?

Mordenisation, urbanisation and globalisation all have a big contribution to the use of refined foods. And also use of foods produced from the refined cereals.

These 3 factors have fueled the use of these foods by bringing new eating patterns to different communities. As a result these foreign eating habits are given a higher class and status than the healthy, whole and indigenous foods.
In most parts of Africa, whole grains are designated as being unclean and food for the poor. And the refined grain foods are given a status and consumed by medium and high income households. And it is these households that are mostly affected by these diet linked chronic diseases.

Also read: Unhealthy eating habits in Africa

In Zimbabwe these refined grains foods are glorified using terms that denigrate whole grains foods.

An example is that he phrase, “chikafu chechirungu” used to glorify refined foods. The term is used to refer to confectioneries, dehulled meals, and most of the refined foods. It also refers to super refined unhealthy snacks. These are more common in tertiary students as well school going children.

So, how do we get rid of the threat of refined grains?

I have written several snippets of some of these measures in several articles.

Also read: 13 Healthy eating habits for your family

Also read: 9. Different ways healthy foods can sustain your body

To reduce the dangers posed by refined cereal foods you must eat more healthy foods. The most healthy option is to replace the refined cereal foods with whole grains. Why?

Because whole grains have an opposite effect on the effects of refined cereals highlighted by the study. Eating whole grains lowers the risks of cardiovascular diseases and early  death.

How?

Whole grains are low glycemic index foods. Which means they release glucose slowly to the  blood stream from the intestines. This also, means post meal blood glucose and insulin spikes are reduced. And this greatly reduces the risks of insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes.

Also, whole grains are rich in dietary fibre and this speeds up the transit time of food in gut. It also reduces the rate of digestion because it makes the food complex. The complexity makes it difficult to fully digest whole grains. And, why is all this important?

Because all this reduces the amount of glucose to be absorbed by the body. And it reduces the amount of excess calories in the body. If there is no excess calories, there is no weight gain and all the associated negative health effects.

Also whole grains add bulkiness to food. This means you feel full for longer. And this reduces meal frequency and overeating, all of which lead to excess dietary calories.

Whole grains also have other benefits like quick removal of harmful chemicals from the gut. This prevents damage of the gut due to dangerous chemicals. The dietary fibre itself is a food for gut bacteria. And this carries it’s own benefits.

List of whole grains you may include into your diet:

  • Include whole wheat
  • Brown rice
  • Steel cut oats and whole grain oats
  • Whole maize meal
  • Corn/whole maize
  • Whole wheat flour and associated foods
  • Whole wheat bread
  • Buckwheat
  • Millet
  • Whole barley
  • Bulgur wheat
  • Spelt
  • Popcorn
  • Quinoa
  • Whole grain/whole wheat pastas

Conclusion

So, from this new study published in the British Medical Journal, refined grains are not any good. These foods are responsible for increased cardiovascular health risks and early death. The best way to reduce the effects of consuming refind grains is by adoption of whole grains. These provide benefits to your overall health.






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