We’re already at step 4 of my series 7 Easy Steps to eating a whole-food plant-based diet. And like step 3, step 4 is super easy – just go brown!Now, that’s nothing to do with sunbathing or (sadly) eating more chocolate. This is about eating whole grains and cereals. Why? Well, there’s 3 main reasons that I can see – fibre, flourish and flavour.
Fibre. I’m a big fan of fibre – it features heavily in my book Eat Well Live Well with The Sensitive Foodie, but if you’ve not got a copy yet (it’s the perfect stocking filler if you need any ideas!) then check out this blog post which will give you a quick summary of fibre’s fabulousness.
Flourish. What I really mean is the nutrients that help you flourish, I just couldn’t think of another suitable word beginning with ‘f’! Whole-grains, as will all whole plant foods, contain loads more nutrients than their refined, white versions – variety as well as quantity.
To quickly explain, grains like rice and wheat have three components – the fibrous bran, the oily germ and the starchy endosperm. As well as containing the majority of the fibre, bran also provides protein (yes, you read that right, there’s protein in rice!) and a selection of minerals like magnesium, iron and selenium which all play vital roles in the body supporting metabolic and cellular functions. For example, magnesium is essential for helping each cell to produce the energy (ATP) it needs to do its job. Magnesium also a key element for nerve impulses. When we don’t have enough, we just don’t function effectively and therefore won’t flourish. Removing the bran from whole-grains removes these essential minerals.
The germ also provides quality nutrients that support the body and help us flourish including wonderful anti-inflammatory Omega 3 fatty acids, vitamins B and E and a range of helpful anti-oxidants that help reduce damaging free radicals floating around in the body. The oils in the germ are delicate and can spoil easily. This is not convenient for long storage or shelf-life so it’s more cost effective for producers to remove it so the remaining starchy endosperm can but used in manufacturing a wide range of products.
The endosperm provides the raw material for creating energy, but is pretty nutrient deficient. And have you noticed how you can buy both bran and wheat/rice germ as a health food product? For a premium price of course! Eaten separately though, and they are out of balance with nature. It’s much better to get the nutrients in their natural form and ratio, ie: eat a whole-grain food. This will help you flourish.
Flavour. Have you ever thought about what white rice or flour actually taste of? Normally they’re covered with a sauce or part of a loaf of bread or cake so the flavour is masked. Eaten on their own, there’s not much to taste. But eat a slice of freshly baked whole-grain spelt bread or a spoonful of chewy red rice and your taste-buds will do a little jig of delight. Because whole-grain products have a flavour all of their own that actually enhance a recipe. This goes for all sorts of flour, grains, cereals and pseudo-grains. Millet (which is a seed) has a wonderful savoury flavour and quinoa is really distinctive. Flours like Teff (from Ethiopia) have an interesting nutty flavour and rice can become a taste sensation all of its own.
If you’re cooking for family, you may well be saying “that’s all very well, Karen, buy my lot just won’t eat it”. I have heard this on numerous occasions, and indeed had the challenge myself. So my advice is – don’t tell them, just do it! Not all at once though. Start with moving from white to whole-grain pasta and cook it slightly longer so it’s super soft. Will they notice? Mine didn’t! Then try whole-grain rice. Bread can be more tricky as it’s a bit more obvious, so shop around and find something that works for them. It could be you start with a seedy multi-grain and gradually move to fully whole-grain. Start experimenting with other whole-grains like quinoa or millet, barley and different coloured rice. I found if I introduced things gradually without a fuss (although they did dread the ‘experiment’ days!) eating brown just became normal, so normal they now always choose the brown option over white.
So if you want to eat great tasting food that is also fabulous for your body and health, then going brown is a super simple way to do it. Choose just one food to change to start and go from there. And don’t forget to let me know how you get on.