It’s commonly known that whole meal or wholegrain products are healthier than white, refined versions. But is smooth whole meal bread just as healthy as cooked barley or steel-cut oats?
Whole Grains for Health
Research suggests that people who eat wholegrain foods regularly have a 20-30 per cent reduced risk of chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease and colon cancer.
But even among wholegrain foods, there appears to be a hierarchy. Some food forms allow for better control of your blood sugar and insulin, which is important, as constantly spiking your sugar and insulin levels during the day is now known to promote disease, even if you don’t have diabetes!
The Best Forms
Whole grains can be processed to varying degrees. Clinical studies show the best forms of grains to use are intact, cracked or rolled (in that order) rather than puffed, flaked or finely ground flour. Think pearled barley for your risotto, bulgur wheat for a pilaff rather than muffins made with whole meal flour or puffed brown rice cakes (even though they are low fat).
The reason? The less ground up the food form, and the smaller the surface area, the longer it takes for the carbohydrate to be digested by your amylase enzymes and the slower the rise in your blood sugar and insulin levels after eating such foods.
Other Preparation Tricks
Don’t soak your grains (especially rice), as this helps gelatinise the starch and make it quicker to digest and release sugar into your bloodstream!
Cook your whole grains in the minimal amount of water required so they are al dente, like the Italians cook pasta, rather than very soft cooked. Whole grains cooked this way are digested more slowly, protecting you from insulin surges.
After cooking, cool your whole grains (or any carbohydrate foods, such as potato) and use the next day. Even if you re-heat such foods, the carbohydrate is more resistant to digestion (called resistant starch), enabling a slower rise in your blood sugar. And you win!
-By Sue Radd