Confused About Carbs? Here’s the Top 5 Benefits of Gorgeous Grains!

Hello, my amazing Plante Lifers!

Are you confused about carbs?

It’s no wonder, with so many mixed messages about which carbs are good for you and which ones you should run from immediately. But there is one particular type of carbohydrate, essential to our September theme of clean eating, that gets a bad rap: gorgeous whole grains.

It’s unfortunate that whole grains are guilty by association, blamed for the weight gain, mental fog, and fatigue that is really only associated with processed refined grains. You know those bad boys! The ones found in white bread, pasta, pastries, fried and snack foods. These are the real culprits of inflammation and body issues.

Whole unprocessed grains are so nutrient rich and beneficial to your bod! They contain the complex carbs which take their sweet ol’ time to break down into sugar in your body, giving you more sustained energy. We’ve all enjoyed a thick slice of bread or a pastry, followed by that immediate sugar high then the inevitable crash-and-burn. Rather than the super fast sugar conversion that refined grains manifest, you can count on complex carbs to help you sail smoothly through the day.

Whether you’re a gluten-free gal or a passionate pasta fiend, let me introduce you to your new favorite pantry staple and give you the lowdown on why these gorgeous whole grains are so good for you!

We can all agree that veggies and fruits are healthy carbs, but when it comes to whole grains, people seem to get confused. During my last Real Food Reboot, many of my clients assumed the cleanse wouldn’t include any carbs and were surprised to find complex whole grains on the menu. (You can get on the waitlist for my next Real Food Reboot, the 14-Day Wellness Experience, here.) I found this so interesting because to me, whole grains are a no-brainer. They are so good for you, but I understand the hesitation.

With the Paleo craze, you can read a lot of conflicting information, and some people still even follow the Atkin’s Diet. There’s nothing particularly wrong with those diets, but it’s more about the quality of the carbs you are consuming rather than the need to do a blanket elimination of all of them.

In case you need a little more convincing, here are 5 health benefits you can reap by adding complex carbs to your diet.

  1. Whole grains improve your digestive health.
    These complex carbs have a lot of fiber, which binds to the toxins in your body and gets those suckers out of there, pronto! They can also prevent constipation and act as a pre-biotic by nourishing the good bacteria (the probiotics) in your body.

  2. Whole grains help you maintain a healthy weight.

    A happy by-product of all that fiber in your digestive system causing increased bowel movements (gross but true) is an a better, faster metabolism – up to 100 extra calories burned per day or the equivalent of a 30-minute brisk walk. You also feel fuller on a diet rich in whole grains, which means you take in fewer calories a day. In fact, you could save up to 5 pounds a year!

  3. Whole grains lower your risk of Type-2 diabetes.

    Since the structure of whole grains is, by definition, whole, they have a lower glycemic index which prevents those nasty blood sugar spikes! Plus, the magnesium and antioxidants in whole grains may help to maintain glucose and insulin homeostasis. A balanced body means better health.

  4. Whole grains lower your risk of developing breast cancer.

    Fiber again for the win! It’s been shown to decrease the risk factors for breast cancer in premenopausal women, “by altering hormonal actions of breast cancer and other hormonal-dependent cancers”.

  5. Whole grains prolong your lifespan!

    I mean, come on, sign me up already! A diet of whole grains has strongly been proven to reduce your risk of cardiovascular diseases, (CVDs) such as heart attacks and strokes. This is “the number one cause of death globally: more people die annually from CVDs than from any other cause.”

Now, the recommended serving size for whole grains is three to five servings a day, with one serving equaling 1/2 cup of a cooked whole grain, 1 slice of whole grain or quinoa flax bread or 1 ounce of whole grain cereal. Still, this amount may change depending on your weight and health.

At least 3 million Americans may suffer from Celiac disease, a chronic immune reaction to eating gluten, and many more from non-celiac gluten sensitivity. According to New Yorker magazine, “Nearly twenty million people contend that they regularly experience distress after eating products that contain gluten, and a third of American adults say that they are trying to eliminate it from their diets.” These conditions can cause diarrhea, bloating, gas, fatigue, and anemia.

So, as always, it’s good to follow the “everything in moderation” rule and be sensitive to cues from your body. For me, after a lot of trial-and-error and getting in tune with my bod, I know that I cannot consume a ton of grains. Instead, I lean toward a bit more Paleo but very veggie heavy diet. And I love gluten-free whole grains.

Here are my recommended gorgeous gluten-free whole grains to give a try:

• Brown rice

• Quinoa (which is technically a seed, but we eat it like it’s a grain)

• Amaranth

• Millet

• Teff (possibly the new super grain)

• Buckwheat

• Non-GMO corn

• Gluten-free oats

Now, oats are inherently gluten-free, but they are often contaminated with wheat during the growing or processing, so you want to make sure you’re buying a brand that takes extra care to keep their oats pure. I like Bob’s Red Mill, GF Harvest and Avena Foods, but just make sure to look for the certified Gluten Free label when shopping.

If you absolutely gotta have pasta, reach for the alternative kind made from brown rice or quinoa because they are only minimally processed.

Now, there is often a question about whole wheat, but my personal opinion is that you should avoid it. The same goes for wheat derivatives like spelt, duram, bulgar or semolina wheat, gamut, farro, barley, and rye. In general, the way we process wheat in the U.S. makes it super high in gluten. The FDA established the gluten-free limit on foods at less than 20ppm (parts per million). To put this amount into perspective, “a 1-ounce (28.35 grams) slice of gluten-free bread containing 20 parts per million gluten would contain 0.57 milligrams of gluten.” Your average slice of whole wheat bread contains around 4.8 grams of gluten. That’s more than 8 times the amount of gluten! Yikes!

And we’re just not meant to break down gluten. Before industrialized food processing, wheat used to be milled, but now it’s mixed with chemicals and refined down in a process that removes the nutrients from the food. When you see the word “enriched”, it means they have actually taken all the nutrients out and then put them back in artificially. So as close as you can get to the real thing, the better. If you’re going to eat it, do your due diligence and make sure it’s actual WHOLE wheat.

Do you have a favorite gorgeous whole grain? Which one will you add you this week’s dinner menu? Let me know in the comments below.

LOVE + lots of brown rice!

Moniqua is a Certified Holistic Health Coach and Real Food | Real Life Expert. As the Owner and Founder of The Plante Life, she helps women (and a few good men) get their groove on through real food, self care and radical self love so they can live the kick ass, healthy, energetic lives they're meant to live.