Whole grains offer nutrients, antioxidants and minerals that are digested differently than refined flour.
There are many foods that children will not eat. Unfortunately, they are often the ones needed to become healthy adults. Whole grains, which can be dry and bitter, may be on that list.
But, just like fruits and vegetables, whole grains are an important element in the food pyramid.
What is the Problem With White Bread?
White bread is white because it has been milled and bleached. This means the bran and the wheat germ have been removed.
Bread is milled in order to improve the shelf life of the bread. It gives manufacturers and consumers a longer time to buy and eat the bread.
However, this process removes some of the fiber, iron, vitamins and minerals that are naturally found in the grain. Some of these nutrients are then added back in to the bread. That is why it is called enriched flour.
While the bread is enriched, it is still not absorbed in the body like unrefined whole grains. Changing the chemistry of the flour and taking out the fiber makes it more like a sugar, creating the blood sugar spike and drop found when eating many simple sugars.
Benefits of Whole Grains
Fiber is one reason whole grains are slower at breaking down than refined flour. This means that a child’s belly will remain fuller longer, reducing overeating.
When eating refined flour, the nutrients turn to glucose (sugar) faster, so the body responds by releasing insulin into the body faster. This glucose is then quickly sent into the bloodstream and used as energy.
Since the glucose is absorbed so quickly there is sharp increase in blood sugar levels. For a short time, there is a burst of energy and then, as the sugar is absorbed and the insulin is decreased, there is a quick drop in energy.
These quick drops in blood sugar are often the reason for uncontrollable tantrums before meals.
Long-Term Benefits of Whole Grains
A 2002 study suggests that those who eat whole grains have a reduced risk for type 2 diabetes and obesity and improved blood glucose control. (“Wholegrain intake is favorably associated with metabolic risk factors for type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease in the Framingham Offspring Study“. Retrieved 2009-03-30.)
Fiber is an important component of digestive health. Whole grains are naturally packed with fiber and particularly effective in reducing coronary heart disease. (Brown L, Rosner B, Willett WW, Sacks FM. Cholesterol-lowering effects of dietary fiber: a meta–analysis. Am J Clin Nutr. 1999; 69:30–42.)
Whole Grains are a Source of Antioxidants
It is believed that antioxidants are a key element in reducing illness. They are essential in slowing down the body’s damage to cells.
Apples, broccoli and spinach are a few antioxidant rich foods. But a serving of whole grains has the same amount of antioxidants as a serving of broccoli or spinach.
Many parents have been taking corn off the table because it is no longer considered a vegetable. But it is a whole grain food, abundant in antioxidants – twice the amount of an apple.
Spinach and broccoli almost always start power struggles at the dinner table. But, while whole grains can’t be a substitute for eating fruits and veggies, wheat and oats pack as many antioxidants as these loathed foods.
White Bread Versus Whole Wheat
If white bread and whole wheat bread were in a running race it would go like this: White Bread jumps out of the starting block and takes off. Whole Wheat is starting to pump his legs while White rounds the first bend. White looks back and laughs at Wheat, who just waves.
White begins to breathe heavily and slow down. Wheat is still running steady, slowly catching up with White. Then, suddenly White stops, bends over and wheezes. Wheat jogs past. White looks up, sees Wheat jogging past but doesn’t have the energy to continue the race. He flings himself to the ground and begins kicking and screaming. Wheat continues to jog at a steady pace and, again, passes White, who’s still on the ground throwing his tantrum. Wheat passes the finish line while White begs his mother for just one piece of candy.
Slow and steady wins the race.
Healthy Reasons to Eat Whole Grains
While it may not be clear on the back of the package which bread is best, chemistry proves that whole wheat is the healthier choice. It is full of antioxidants, vitamins and minerals found in other whole foods, such as fruits and vegetables. Those who consume whole wheat are at less risk for heart disease and Type II diabetes. White bread is processed and passes through the body quickly, making hunger return much quicker and spiking blood sugar. Parents who use whole grains are providing daily nutrients required on the food pyramid.