On April 23, 2010, at the Experimental Biology Annual Meeting, the Associate of Science in Nursing, ASN through an unrestricted education grant from the General Mills Bell Institute of Health and Nutrition, sponsored a satellite symposium on: “Putting the Whole Grain Puzzle Together: Health Benefits Associated with Whole Grain.”
The symposium brought together researchers who reviewed the evidence associated with whole grain health benefits in the areas of: Whole grain phyto-nutrients, (2) Weight management, (3) Cardiovascular disease (CVD), (3) Diabetes, (4) Digestive health and ways to help improve whole grain dietary intake assessment.
The consensus is that the additive and synergistic effects of bioactive phyto-chemicals found in whole grains are responsible for the health benefits associated with a lower risk of diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure. Additionally, epidemiological studies from North American and European cohorts have consistently shown that consumption of whole grains is associated with reduced risk of CVD.
Read also: Whole wheat meal for nutritional goodness
In fact, Lilian Cheung, DSc, a Resident Dietitian, of the USDA and a lecturer on nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health recommends eating grains daily, and at least half of those should be whole grains. “You’re getting fiber, a healthy plant-based protein, vitamins, minerals, and a variety of phyto-chemicals that will improve your health.
In addition, several studies across the globe carried out over the years agree with the above stated. These are by Professors Dagfinn Aune, Darren G.Serena Tonstad of the UK ; Nana Keum, Edward G. Paolo Boffetta, Lars Vatten and DagfinnAune, Nana Keum from the USA and Professors Guo-Chong Chen, Xing Tong, Jia-Ying Xu, Shu-Fen Han, Zhong-Xiao Wan, Jia-Bi Qin and Li-Oiang Qin, all from China.
It is a similar scenario with studies by Jacobs et al, Liu et al, Steffen et al and Nettleton et al , on the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities study confirmed the earlier stated study findings. So also did that by Kerri-Ann Jennings, the author of ‘;9 Legitimate Health Benefits of Eating Whole Grains’ published on December 23, 2016. She however, advised that people purchasing processed whole grain products, should make sure that they read the ingredients list to give the assurance that they are made entirely from whole grains, not a mixture of whole and refined grains.
If these seem foreign, related studies carried out by eminent Nigerian food technologists and scientists, attest and align with the immense nutritional benefits of whole grains, including whole wheat meal presented as swallow foods similar to our local pounded yam, eba and amala. These researchers and erudite scholars include Prof. Isaac Adeyemi, Fellow, Nigerian Academy of Science(FAS) and an expert on grains and milling technology, former VC of Bells University of Technology, Ota and Mr.Ugochukwu Uche Patrick, the Chief Food Technologist and Head, Pilot Food Processing Plants at the Federal Institute of industrial Research(FIIRO), Oshodi, Lago. Others include Prof. Olu. Malomo, a professor of Biotechnology, Kings University Odeomu, Osun State and Mr. Sherif Olagunju, fsi, Director, Food Safety and Applied Nutrition Directorate, NAFDAC as well as Ufondu Amalachukwu Nwamaka also of NAFDAC, Lagos.
According to Adeyemi, there are many health benefits of incorporating whole grain foods into your diet. Whole grain foods help lower the risk of coronary heart disease, stroke, obesity, and diabetes. Contrary to popular belief, foods that have whole grain do not add to weight gain. The reason why people gain weight is because of refined carbohydrates. These can be found in cakes, cookies, doughnuts, and other types of bread.
Both forms of fibre are important for bowel regularity and gut health, prevention of heart disease through cholesterol lowering properties, prevention of diabetes, obesity and prevention of constipation.
NAFDAC researchers insist that in addition to the effects of fibre, wheat contains numerous other components that may play a role in health and disease risk reduction. These are polyphenols, carotenoids, vitamin E, and phytosterols. The additive and synergistic effects of these compounds may contribute to the health benefits of whole grain consumption.
On his part, Patrick of FIIRO describes wheat as “the king of all cereals” and “ a treasured plant” because it is rich in proteins, carbohydrates, most of the essential amino acids and valuable minerals, ‘ all in one plant”!. Besides, it has been made popular because it possesses gluten which makes it possible for bread making. He adds that no other cereal is as nutritionally rich. However, there are two varieties of hard wheat, with protein content of 14-15%, used for bread and Soft wheat of 10-12% protein used for biscuits and cookies. This is the type grown in Nigeria, at the Chad and Hadeija River Basin.
Prof. Malomo reiterates that whole grains as present in whole wheat meal they lower blood pressure. The heart benefits of whole grains don’t stop with cholesterol and triglycerides. They also lower blood pressure, one of the most important risk factors for heart disease. One study found a 19% lower risk of hypertension among men who ate more than 7 servings of whole grain breakfast cereal a week compared with those who ate one or less. A study of women also found a benefit. “Eating whole grains instead of refined grains substantially lowers blood.
He adds that they are effective against Type-2 diabetes, cancer and have positive effective effect on the digestive system, giving a fuller feeling and even contribute to longevity. So, the question is what really makes whole grains so nutritious?
The wheat grain or ‘caryopsis’, which is harvested for human nutrition, is composed of a number of different tissues: According to Jennings, whole grain kernels have three parts : Bran: This is the hard, outer shell. It contains fiber, minerals and antioxidants. Endosperm: The middle layer of the grain is mostly made up of carbohydrates. Germ: This inner layer has vitamins, minerals, protein and plant compounds.
The acronym is BEG, which means that whole grains are literally begging us to eat them! Grains can be rolled, crushed or cracked, but as long as these three parts are still present in their original proportion, they’re considered whole grains.
With all the listed benefits, why are Nigerians not fully aware of them especially as made available Honeywell Whole Wheat Meal?
Let it be noted that there are many kinds of whole grains, including oat meal, popcorn, millet, quinoa and brown rice. Others are whole rye, wild rice, wheat berry, bulgur, buckwheat, freekeh, barley and sorghum. Products made from these foods are also considered whole grain foods. These include bread, pasta, some breakfast cereals and of course, whole wheat meal.
People eating whole wheat meal should therefore, be rest assured that are gaining many nutrients because whole grains contain all three parts of the grain and therefore, highly nutritious. For instance, they’re high in nutrients and fibre, obtained from the bran. They are particularly high in B vitamins, including niacin, thiamin and folate. They also contain a good amount of minerals, such as zinc, iron, magnesium.
Whole grains provide several grams of protein per serving. Also, several compounds in whole grains act as antioxidants. These include phytic acid, lignin and sulfur compounds. Similarly, many types of plant compounds that play a role in preventing diseases are found in whole grains. These include lignans, stanols and sterols.
In summary, whole grains have higher phyto-nutrient content and antioxidant activity than refined grains which have been stripped of their bran and germ leaving only the endosperm. For instance, refined wheat flour loses 83% of total phenolic acids, 79% of total flavonoids, 93% of ferulic acid, 78% of total zeaxanthin, 51% of total lutein, and 42% of total β-cryptoxanthin compared with whole wheat flour.