Whole Grain Bread - Detail - © eathisnotthat.com

Sunday Musings: Why Don’t We Embrace Whole Grains?

This past week alone I’ve seen at least three stories go by on the medical and nutrition news feeds about how important it is to eat fewer refined flours and more Whole Grains. If Whole Grains are so important to our health, and that of the whole world around us, why don’t we just do it?

Whole Grain Bread - © eathisnotthat.comDelicious Whole Grain Bread: Naturally nutty and sweet, contains all
parts of the grain kernel, including the incredibly important Bran.
Note: T
his Multigrain loaf is topped with un-cracked Seeds
indicating all the good stuff that’s inside..

The latest story, dated just 2 days ago, reinforces the now-well-established position that consuming fewer refined carbs and more Whole Grains has a definite beneficial effect on one’s overall health with a special emphasis on heart disease, stroke and systemic inflammation (which has been tied to a long list of health issues). How many times have we heard that over the past decade? More than I could count.

So… Why is consumer demand for the ‘bad’ stuff still high and according to the abstract of that February 19, 2021, study?

What they did

“The Prospective Urban Rural Epidemiology (PURE) study has been examining diets from diverse populations in low-, middle- and high-income countries around the world,” the abstract reports.

For purposes of this study, “Grains were categorized into three groups: refined grains, whole grains and white rice. Refined grains included goods made with refined (e.g. white) flour, including white bread, pasta/noodles, breakfast cereals, crackers, and bakery products/desserts containing refined grains. Whole grains included whole grain flours (e.g. buckwheat) and intact or cracked whole grains (eg. steel cut oats).”

What they found

“Over 16 years of analysis of 137,130 participants in 21 countries, including Canada, the researchers found the intake of refined grains and added sugars have greatly increased over the years.” the abstract states. “The study found that having more than seven servings of refined grains per day was associated with a 27 per cent greater risk for early death, 33 percent greater risk for heart disease and 47 per cent greater risk for stroke. […] No significant adverse health effects were found with consuming whole grains or white rice.”

The takeaway

“This study re-affirms previous work indicating a healthy diet includes limiting overly processed and refined foods,” says Prof. Scott Lear of Simon Fraser University (SFU) (BC, Canada).

The study goes as far as to assert that the evidence, “… suggests eating whole grain foods like brown rice and barley, and having fewer cereal grains and refined wheat products. Reducing one’s overall consumption of refined grains and having better quality carbohydrates is essential for optimal health outcomes.”

My take

There are probably many reasons most of us haven’t switched to consuming more Whole Grains.

First, I think that there are so many Refined Grains products available that the human addiction to convenience just makes them our natural choice In fact, Refined Grains are the ideal base for a multitude of mass-produced products such as breads, cereals and salty snacks.

Second, flavour and texture mitigate in favour of Refined Grains. Contemporary consumers – epecially the young – have been conditioned to make the easiest food choices, and prefer what their adult role models choose.

Third, ‘recent’ immigrants, removed from ‘the old country’ by only a generation or two, may have already set aside what they consider an unfashionable and socially unrefined preference for Whole Grain products in an effort to fit into North American society. And they don’t go out of their way to teach their kids about the wonderful flavour, texture, and cultural connections Whole Grains can provide.

Fourth, those folks educated enough and aware enough of the world around them probably don ‘t bother to encourage their kids to experiment with Whole Grains or introduce Whole Grain products into the home the way they should, so that kids will grow up with a proper appreciation of them. If a kid’s never had peanut butter on Caraway Seed rye bread, they’ll never how fabulous such culinary love matches can be!

Fifth, as nutty as is may seem, less-processed grains and products made from them, cost more than those stamped out from refined grains. That’s probably the result of the effects of scale on manufacturing.

Something to muse upon…

I’m sure there are lots of other reasons folks today shun Whole Grains. And I hope my faithful readers will comment or e-mail me their contributions.

But mostly I hope you’ll all take a few moments sometime today to muse upon the reasons we all don’t all take advantage of the benefits and joys of Whole Grains daily, and make the world a healthier place!

~ Maggie J.