Word play and word associations, I feel are a great way of rewriting our brains code (how we perceive food), and also rewiring of some of the circuits to change the way we look at foods.
This is why I like to define holistic with a single word - (w)hole. For me holistic = (w)hole.
And this word association I think was somehow clear to our ancestors, as eating ‘whole’ grains was a naturally followed rule till actually not so long back too. That is before convenience (mostly made of refined grains) toppled common sense and began ruling our food choices completely.
It’s clear people earlier used to eat as close to natural (whole grains) as possible. And this way of eating makes a lot of sense. Why?
Let me try and explain. But first what are whole grains?
Whole grains are grains that have all three parts - the bran (the nutritious outer layer), the germ (the seed’s nutrient-rich embryo) and the endosperm (the germ’s food supply, which is high in starchy carbs) intact. Examples of whole foods are oats, wheat, quinoa, millets, amaranth, buckwheat, barley, ragi etc.
Whole grains are made up of thousands of components - phytochemicals, fiber, vitamins, minerals, enzymes and more that work ‘together’ to offer health benefits. They’re typically high in iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, selenium, B vitamins and many more good for us nutrients. Refined foods on the other hand end up loosing a lot of these good for us ingredients during the refining process. Refined foods examples are white flour, white bread, white rice etc.
Besides being high in nutrients whole grains score on the fiber angle too. How much fiber we consume has a strong say in our health status. It’s importance in diet today is at par with other macro nutrients like protein et all.
Increasing the fiber intake is propagated for multiple reasons varying from keeping constipation away to preventing heart disease, and of course to keep the weight in check as it provides bulk and satiety, and keeps cravings away.
And whole grains provide fiber aplenty (whereas refined are almost nil on fibre).
The Indirect Benefits
You must have heard that ghee gives butyric acid which is brilliant for maintaining our gut’s health. Well, there is another way to get butyrate and other similarly beneficial short-chain fatty acids.
That is by eating enough fibre and letting our intestinal bacteria do the rest.
Whole grains, and beans are good sources of fibre, and refined foods such as white flour, bread, white rice and sugar are very low in fibre.
The connect is simple: increasing dietary fibre increases butyrate production, and decreasing fibre decreases it. So eating whole foods keeps the seat of health - our gastro-intestinal system - healthy, and thus goes a long way in keeping us disease free.
Eating whole grains, that is placing common sense above simple convenience, it seems did multiple generations before us a lot of good. It’s time to go back to those uncomplicated, unrefined times.
So starting today be careful, take a good look at what you are eating, and begin pruning refined grains from your diet, and add more whole grains.
Try These Recipes
Mix 1/2-cup oats with 1/4-cup whole grain flour and 1 tsp. cinnamon. Add in 1/4 to 1/3 cup brown sugar substitute. Mix well. Cut in about 4 1/2 Tbsp. low calorie margarine until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Slice 5 Granny Smith apples into thin slices.
Toss the apples with 2 tsp. lemon juice, 1 tbsp. flour, and 1/2 tsp. cinnamon. Place the apples in a casserole dish and top with the oat mixture.
Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes until apples are tender and topping is crisp.
Cold Barley Salad
Boil 1 cup pearl barley, strain and keep aside Sauté 1 each red and yellow bell peppers, 100 gm mushrooms, 50 gm baby corn and 50 gm French beans.
Mix with the barley, add chopped coriander, and 2 sliced boiled eggs.
Season with salt and pepper and oregano and red chilli flakes. Chill the salad and eat.
Soak jowar for a few hours. Cook for one whistle on high and then on sim for 15 min. Heat some oil, add cumin, Kari Patta, ginger garlic paste, cubed, boiled potato and few other veggies (any), cooked jowar, roasted crushed peanuts and salt to taste and 1 tsp sugar.
Mix well, add lemon juice on top.
(Kavita Devgan is a nutritionist, weight management consultant, and health writer based in Delhi. She is the author of Don’t Diet! 50 Habits of Thin People (Jaico), Ultimate Grandmother Hacks: 50 Kickass Traditional Habits for a Fitter You (Rupa) and Fix it with foods.)