Author: Jill Sabato
Wheat is one of our oldest harvested grains, first cultivated over five thousand years ago. Wheat germ is the embryo of the wheat berry (a wheat kernel that hasn't been heated, milled, or polished), and it's loaded with nutrition.
Two tablespoons, at only 52 calories, have 4 grams of protein, 2 grams of fibre, 41 micrograms of folate, a third of the RDA (recommended daily allowance) of vitamin E, along with high levels of thiamine, manganese, selenium, vitamin B6, and potassium together with reasonable levels of iron and zinc. Wheat germ, like flaxseed, is also one of the few sources of plant-derived omega-3 fatty acids. Just 2 tablespoons-the serving size of wheat germ - of Kretschmer toasted wheat germ have 100 milligrams of beneficial omega-3 fatty acids
Wheat germ contains phytosterols that play a role in reducing cholesterol absorption. A recent clinical trial reported that slightly less than 6 tablespoons of wheat germ per day caused a 42.8 percent reduction in cholesterol absorption among the human volunteers in the study.
Sprinkle wheat germ on yogurt, cold cereal or hot oatmeal. Add it to pancake and muffin mix and into quick breads. When you think that only 2 tablespoons of wheat germ can significantly boost your day's nutrition, why not keep a jar of it in the fridge.
Few issues in the diet and nutrition wars are more confusing than carbohydrates. Low-carb diets have increased the confusion: they've drawn attention to carbohydrates, but unfortunately have oversimplified the issue of protein versus carbs. Many people have come to believe that carbs equal weight gain and are bad. Foods are now being labelled with banners that claim "no-carb" or "carb-free." Consumers trying to lose weight are being told that eating carbs will destroy any hope of weight loss. What's been lost in this battle, at least for many consumers, is the fact that, like fats and proteins, not all carbs are created equal.
Carbohydrates are found in a large number of foods, from table sugar to vegetables, to beans, and whole grains. A teaspoon of sugar is a carb. So is a slice of whole grain bread. You can guess which is better for you, but you may not know why.
A whole grain, whether it's oats, barley, wheat, bulgur, or a host of others, contains every part of the grain. The three parts include:
• The bran: a health-promoting, fibre-rich outer layer that contains B vitamins, minerals, protein, and other phytochemicals.
• The endosperm: the middle layer that contains carbohydrates, proteins, and a small amount of B vitamins.
• The germ: the nutrient-packed inner layer that contains B vitamins, vitamin E, and other phytochemicals.
It's the synergy of these three components that makes whole grains life enhancing. The refined carbs described earlier have been stripped of their health-promoting parts. When grains are "refined" to make white flour or white rice, for example, the bran and the germ, and all their powerful nutrients, antioxidants, and phytonutrients are stripped away, leaving a starchy substance that is to whole grain what soda is to 100 percent fruit juice. They can make it into bread, but they can't make it healthy!
Whole grains are essential to health. They provide fibre, vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, and other nutrients that are simply not available in any other effectively synergistic package. All healthy diets rely on them. Despite the fact that whole grains form the basis of most food pyramids, indicating that they should be a significant part of our diet, many North Americans fail to eat even one whole grain serving a day! Men and women who eat whole grains have a reduced risk of twenty types of cancer, according to a 1998 review of forty observational studies, published in the journal Nutrition and Cancer.
Whole grains also benefit the heart, according to an analysis of data from the Iowa Women's Health Study, a nine-year study of more than 34,000 postmenopausal women. When all other factors were considered, it was found that women who ate a serving or more of whole grain foods each day had a 14 to 19 percent lower overall mortality rate than those who rarely or never ate whole grains. It really is a tragedy that we consume so few whole grains and so much refined grains. If we could shift that balance, we would all be much healthier. We've already seen how oats can lower cholesterol levels and stabilize blood sugar.
The complete list of the health-promoting abilities of whole grains is quite long.
Vitamin E intake from food, not supplements, has been inversely related to the risk of stroke. Whole grains and nuts are the two major sources of whole food vitamin E.
Whole grain consumption has been linked to a reduction in the risk of strokes. In the Nurses' Health Study, among the group that never smoked, a median intake of 2.7 servings of whole grains a day was associated with a 50 percent reduction in the risk of ischemic stroke. Given that less than 8 percent of adults in the U.S. consume more than three servings of whole grains a day, it's clear we are missing a major health opportunity.
One study in the Journal of the American Medical Association studied young adults and found those with the highest fibre intake had the lowest diastolic blood pressure readings. Hypertension is consistently the most important risk factor for stroke. Researchers estimated that a 2-millimeter decrease in diastolic blood pressure would result in a 17 percent decrease in the prevalence of hypertension and a 15 percent reduction in risk for stroke. Whole grains form an important part of the DASH diet (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension; see website http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/public/heart/hbp/dash/) that has repeatedly been found to lower blood pressure.
Whole grains are also helpful in preventing coronary artery disease. In the same Nurses' Health Study mentioned earlier, women who consumed a median of 2% whole grain servings a day experienced more than a 30 percent lowered risk of coronary artery disease.
Whole grains contain folate, which helps to lower serum levels of homocysteine - an independent risk factor for stroke and cardiovascular disease.