Grains have been eaten as far back as 100,000 years ago and grown and cultivated to become a staple in the global diet. Today’s cereal grains are grown en masse in most countries, used to feed livestock and manufacture cosmetics, fuel, cooking oil and alcohol, and our consumption.
A grain is an amazing seed harvested from a variety of grasses, including wheat, barley, rye, rice and oats and is composed of main four parts:
Together they are the whole grain and pack a nutritional punch. Are grains really good for you? What nutrients do grains provide? Let’s learn everything about grains.
Types of Grains
Grains are processed as:
Whole Grains: In whole form or ground with all parts of the seed present. Because they are power-packed with so many nutrients, whole grains lower the risk of many diseases.
Refined Grains: These grains have the bran and germ removed during milling to get a finer texture and extend the shelf life. It, unfortunately, removes many of the nutrients.
Enriched Grains: Enriching these refined grains means they are fortified with vitamins and minerals lost during the milling process and those that don’t naturally occur in the seed.
Grains are grown on farms. They are harvested in large quantities, but require the optimal conditions to maintain their nutrient profiles. Farmers use technology solutions like grain bin moisture monitoring systems to manage their harvests. Afterwards, grains are delivered to various suppliers and retailers for mass consumption.
Let’s learn about the four popular types of grains:
Grain #1: Husk
The husk is an outer, protective layer of the grain that keeps the contents safe. It is stripped away during processing because it is inedible. This hull or chaff is removed in a two-step process of threshing and winnowing, leaving behind a naked grain.
It is made of cellulose, hemicellulose, lignin, and a protein matrix to produce a hard structure and shields the outside world from a maturing seed. It is non-edible for humans as it adds no real nutritional value.
Grain #2: Bran
The next layer of a grain is the bran. This also adds protection and is akin to an apple or potato skin. It is edible and high in insoluble fibre that doesn’t digest but instead absorbs fluid and wastes products to provide bulk to your stool. Its presence speeds up the elimination process, so there are no gastrointestinal blockages or constipation.
But that’s not all it’s good for. Bran is also full of antioxidants like phytochemical lignans and phytic acid, and B vitamins as well as:
Protein is also a big part of bran, as it contains many essential amino acids to add to your complete protein source.
Grain #3: Endosperm
For the grain seed to survive, it needs a food source, and that comes from the endosperm. This interior layer kernel is the largest part of the grain and surrounds the germ, sitting inside the bran skin. It is rich in carbohydrates, including:
- Free sugars
The starch makes up most of the endosperm and directly fuels the body through glycogen storage in your liver and muscles. Then you have this stored energy on reserve when you need it.
There are also some proteins and a small number of B vitamins and minerals.
Grain #4: Germ
Now we have the germ. This is the innermost part of the grain, where the development and growth of a new plant come from. It is small but full of amazing nutrients, fibre, protein, and vitamin E. The germ oils are also high in triglycerides, a healthy fat.
Proteins in Grains
Our bodies need 20 essential proteins as these are our building blocks. We produce 11 of them independently, so the rest must come from our food. One of the best ways to get the rest is by consuming various grains and legumes, nuts, and animal sources.
Vitamins and Minerals in Grains
The ability to get energy from whole grains is amazing. They are rich in B and E vitamins and a long list of minerals to help you digest carbohydrates, improve your immunity, and support your nervous and circulatory systems.
The best way to eat grains is in the whole form. They aren’t stripped of key components that positively affect your health and wellness. They do take more preparation, but you are worth it.
Eat a variety of grains in your diet for a complete profile of nutritional health and a wide variety of textures and tastes. Some of the grains you should regularly consume are:
- Brown Rice
There are several others you can find and experiment with too.
Whole grains are beneficial in so many ways. They provide energy, fibre, vitamins, minerals, protein and fat and are easy to grow worldwide. Understanding the nutritional benefits of eating grains leads you to a healthier diet, so get out there and collect some grass seeds as our ancestors did.