​Back to Basics step 5: Whole grains in the diet

Thursday 03 May 2018


Continuing with the theme that I have called ‘Back to Basics’, I want to look at step 5. The use of whole grains in the diet, also known as Complex Carbohydrates.

For those of you who have been following the blogs you will know that so far we have already covered steps 1,2 and 3;

Step 1 was addressing the quantity of fresh vegetables and fruits in the diet and it was recommended that at least 50% of your daily food intake came from fresh fruits and vegetables.

Step 2 Looking at the type of fat that we eat on the understanding that fat is an essential part of a healthy diet but it has the be the right sort of fat.

Step 3 looked at ways of increasing fruit and vegetables in your diet

Step 4 ( part one and part 2) looked at the amount of sugar and sweet foods that we eat and the main recommendation was that these were kept to the absolute minimum if eaten at all. I did recommend some natural sweet alternatives.

So onto Step 5. The natural way forward would be to look at what we call the ‘Complex carbohydrates’, as opposed the Simple carbohydrates i.e. sugars and sweet refined processed foods that we looked at in step 3.

The complex carbohydrates
The name complex carbohydrates comes from the fact that the chemical structure of the food is ‘complex’ and therefore it takes time for the body to digest and absorb the sugars from the food. This results in a slow release of sugar into the blood. As opposed to the simple carbohydrates which have a very simple chemical structure and therefore are digested and absorbed rapidly into the bloodstream causing a rapid rise in blood sugar as I explained in step 3.

What arecomplex carbohydrates
The complex carbohydrate foods are the whole grain cereals like oats, wholemeal flour, brown rice, wholemeal pasta, quinoa, millet, buckwheat and rye.

What are their benefits?

·         Rich in B vitamins which we need for good metabolism and energy and for supporting the immune system.

·         B vitamins are also very good for nervous energy and for helping with mood, anxiety and mild depression. This naturally can be a problem with the diagnosis of cancer, so to include whole grains in the diet regularly may be a support.

·         Because they are whole they still contain the bran which is a good source of dietary fibre. This is needed to keep the digestive system functioning well, and to prevent constipation. Pain killing drugs can have a tendency to cause constipation so whole grains and plenty of fluid may help this.

·         They are also filling foods.

·         They help to maintain an even blood sugar and insulin levels especially if they are eaten at the same time as protein foods like eggs, meats and pulses. (see step 5 next week). As we know from previous blogs that high insulin as a result of eating sugar can be a driving factor for cancer.

·         Wholegrain foods contain a vitamin like compound called 1P6 which has been shown to have anti -oxidant activity which help balanced the bowel flora population and strengthen the immune system. Some research has shown that it has the ability to control tumour growth and progression.

How to include complex carbohydrates in your diet

It is recommended that these types of foods make up about ¼ to a 1/3rd of your diet.

Simple ways to include them

  • Oat based breakfast cereals like porridge or muesli eaten with almond milk or natural yogurt and some fresh fruits like banana or berries to complete the meal.
    Quinoa porridge. Quinoa is a super grain very nutrient dense and worth trying if you haven’t already. Below I have added a delicious comforting and healthy recipe using quinoa. For those of you who read my blogs regularly and use the monthly online recipes would know that I am a great fan or Quinoa because of its amazing nutritional value.
  • Wholemeal bread/toast (note; brown bread is white bread that is dyed brown). Some people find that too much wheat in the diet upsets their digestive system and can cause bloating, this is due mainly to the gluten content. Gluten is the name of the protein found in wheat. Spelt wheat also called the ‘Sunshine grain’ is a natural wheat with a much lower gluten content and therefore does not seem to cause digestive problems. It is worth noting that most of the wheat that we eat today is wheat grain that has been bred and processed rather than grown naturally.
  • Brown rice; It does take longer to cook than white rice but a tip is to cook a large quantity at once, chill quickly and then freeze in usable portions. It can be plunged into boiling water from the freezer, brought to the boil, it is then ready for use. I quite often add brown rice to a soup to make it more of a main meal, or use cold cooked rice to make a rice salad.
    One of my favourite ways to use rice is to cook it in the normal way and while it is hot to mix in some sauted onions and a dash or tamari or soya sauce. This makes a delicious salad or side dish.
    When I am looking for comfort I will make a rice pudding using wholegrain rice, rice milk, cinnamon and a little sweet freedom sweetener or a couple of teaspoons of good honey. Absolutely delicious and good for you.
  • Buckwheat has nothing to do with the wheat family despite its name. It is in fact gluten free and make lovely pancakes that can be filled with sweet or savoury fillings.

Quinoa couscous.

200gof dry quinoa.
1 small onion finely chopped.
2 tbsp of olive oil.
400mls of vegetable stock.
Pinch cinnamon.
1 tbsp unsalted butter or coconut butter.
2 tbsp almond slivers
2 tbsp sultanas
Sea salt or rock salt to taste.

1. In a heavy based saucepan on a medium heat warm the olive oil and cook the onion till translucent. Add the quinoa and stir in the oil until well coated.
2. Add the stock and cinnamon. Bring to the boil and reduce to a simmer and simmer for 20mins until the stock has been absorbed and the quinoa fluffs up with a fork.
3.  Remove from the heat add the butter, sultanas and almonds. Season and add a little more cinnamon if desired.
4.  Leftovers are delicious served for breakfast with warmed almond milk and a little honey.

Blog originally written by Caroline March 2014

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