The Astonishing Benefits of Whole Grains In Your Diet
Eating a variety of whole grains is just as important as eating your proteins, vegetables, and fruits. The reason is that just like different vegetables, different whole grains have unique nutrient components.
Besides their nutrient components, whole grains often make up the cereal portion of most of our breakfasts, as is the case with muesli, for example. They are also a great accompaniment, when cooked, to many salads and hot dishes.
The Benefits of Whole Grains in Your Diet
Whole grains have many benefits:
- Whole grains tend to make us feel fuller for longer. They take longer to digest, and use up kilojoules during the process. This is because they are rich in fiber, which plays a major role in the digestive process. Do remember to hydrate, as too little water with a diet rich in fiber may result in constipation.
- Whole grains are good for your heart as they help to lower your bad (LDL) cholesterol levels.
- Whole grains are a source of vitamin E, an antioxidant that protects your body from the damage caused by free radicals. Studies also indicate that vitamin E has an inhibiting function on cortisol production making it perfect for those in the initial stages of adrenal fatigue where there is a marked increase in cortisol production and levels.
- Whole grains are a source of B vitamins, which play an important role in metabolic function at a cellular level and are one of the most important vitamins in the adrenal cascade. All eight of the different B vitamins need to be present in your body in a certain ratio in order to do their jobs optimally, including one of their roles of supporting proper adrenal function. Unfortunately, most people with adrenal fatigue show a lack of these vitamins. This may be due to insufficient consumption through diet, or, paradoxically, that high cortisol levels tend to deplete your body of the B vitamins.
- Whole grains are a source of magnesium. Magnesium is essential for many bodily functions, including the repair of DNA and RNA, converting food into energy, the creation of proteins from amino acids, the regulation of neurotransmitters sending messages throughout the brain and nervous system, and muscle movement. It also supports thyroid health as it is essential for the production of the thyroid hormones. The fact that it has anti-inflammatory properties means it fights inflammation. It also promotes sleep, which is essential for the production of growth hormone and other hormones. Because magnesium has a calming effect on your nervous system, it may help curtail the excessive production of cortisol.
- Whole grains are a source of iron. Iron is important for hemoglobin formation, which is an oxygen carrier and helps red blood cells to transfer oxygen from the lungs to the body and brain. Iron is vital for muscle health as it is an important component of muscle protein. Too little iron can lead to anemia and its associated symptoms such as headache, fatigue, a feeling of weakness, temperature sensitivity, and a list of chronic ailments which are very similar to that of Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome (AFS). Unfortunately, many people have low levels of iron in their blood. This may be due to a diet lacking in iron, or because of incorrect farming practices and the leaching of iron out of the soil resulting in less iron present in food.
The Importance of Whole Grains as Part of the Adrenal Fatigue Diet
Your adrenal glands produce a number of hormones. One of these is cortisol, the hormone that allows you to deal with stressful situations.
During times of stress – which may be the result of psychological, physical, or environmental factors – your adrenal glands, guided by the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis and your body’s own automatic stress response system (the NeuroEndoMetabolic [NEM] stress response), automatically increase their cortisol production. While cortisol production is intensified, other bodily functions and hormone production deemed not immediately necessary for life are either downgraded or turned off. This is not usually a problem, as once the situation passes, your body’s cortisol (and other functions and hormone production) returns to normal.
Prolonged periods of stress and the accompanying prolonged increase in cortisol production, however, has numerous side-effects. These side-effects affect just about all major organs, glands that produce hormones, and your body’s neurological pathways. The end result is a series of symptoms that, while seeming totally unrelated, may have what is known as Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome as their root cause.
- Blood sugar issues
- Dry or thin skin
- Body temperature issues
- Heart palpitations
- Diarrhea or constipation
- Unexplained hair loss
- Sleep issues
- Weight gain
- Hormone imbalances
As you progress through the various stages of adrenal fatigue, your adrenals start tiring and are unable to produce the constant, increased cortisol your body is demanding. Finally, they start giving in, producing less cortisol. This is usually the case during the later stages of the condition.
While you may assume that the lowered cortisol production is good, this is actually not true because low cortisol levels result in a range of symptoms that may be debilitating. Also, your chances of infections increase because cortisol plays an important role in your body’s immune system.
The keyword, as far as adrenal fatigue and cortisol production are concerned, is thus “balance”. By keeping your body in a state of balance with regard to cortisol production, your body is able to function at an optimal level. This includes aspects such as hormone production.
The Role of Whole Grains
Whole grains are low glycemic index (GI) foods. This means that because they take longer to digest, usually due to their high fiber content, they do not cause blood sugar spikes.
When stressed, the increased production of cortisol leads to systemic effects, as has been mentioned. One of these is an increase in glucose levels in your blood because your body is preparing itself for the typical ‘fight or flight’ scenario that accompanies a stressful situation. This extra glucose is thus needed in preparation for physical activity.
During this time, the cortisol in your body inhibits your pancreas’ production of insulin because it wants to prevent the glucose from being stored. It wants it to be ready in case of any imminent physical action. In the long turn, as your pancreas strives to increase insulin production, but is thwarted by the ever-increasing cortisol levels, insulin resistance may result. This may lead to prediabetes and later, diabetes may ensue.
During this period of stress, your arteries are also narrowed, resulting in an increase in your heart rate. Under normal conditions, this is of short duration, but once again, with constantly elevated cortisol levels, the situation may continue for some time. The end result may be damage to your arteries and, ultimately, your heart.
One of the symptoms of adrenal fatigue is weight gain. This is because cortisol has the ability to mobilize stored triglycerides and relocate them to the abdominal area, resulting in belly fat. Blood sugar and insulin may also play a role here, as prolonged insulin suppression results in glucose-starved cells. Because they are starved for energy, chemical messengers are sent to the brain indicating hunger. The result may be overeating, with unused glucose ultimately being stored as fat. High cortisol levels also affect your food cravings – typically for foods that are high in calories.
Your immune function is also affected by cortisol. Cortisol reduces inflammation. However, over a period, a constant inflammation reduction acts at suppressing your immune system. This leaves you open to a variety of conditions, including the common cold, allergies, gastrointestinal issues, autoimmune disease, and cancer, amongst many others.
Another condition related to cortisol is fertility issues. A prolonged increase in cortisol production means there are fewer precursor hormones available for the manufacture of other essential hormones in the body. This results in a hormonal imbalance. In men, it could lead to erectile dysfunction, while in women it could result in disrupted ovulation and menstrual cycles. Couples in this situation may find it difficult to conceive.
Whole grains, as part of a balanced eating plan, thus aid in stabilizing cortisol levels over time, thereby preventing, and possibly healing, a multitude of conditions, including adrenal fatigue.
Low GI Whole Grains to Consider
Low GI whole grains are packed in fiber and other nutrients. They are also easy to store and incorporate into your diet.
Buckwheat is gluten free and it contains potassium, vitamin E, iron, calcium, and the B vitamins. It is also high in both protein and fiber.
Oats contain magnesium, iron, B vitamins, vitamin E, phosphorus, zinc, and calcium. They are also a rich source of proteins and fiber.
Rye contains B vitamins, vitamin E, magnesium, iron, potassium, phosphorus, manganese, zinc, folate, copper, calcium, protein, and fiber.
Bulgur contains B vitamins, iron, magnesium, calcium, potassium, choline, manganese, and is high in fiber.
Quinoa is gluten free and a complete protein containing all the essential amino acids. It also contains B vitamins, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, manganese, copper, folate, and fiber.
Wild rice is gluten free and contains B vitamins, magnesium, copper, phosphate, zinc, protein, and fiber.
Barley contains, besides protein and fiber, vitamin E, B vitamins, magnesium, iron, copper, zinc, calcium, potassium, phosphorus, sulfur, and manganese.
Besides cooking these grains individually, they can be added to soups and stews or used to make bread. One such bread, where whole grains and pulses are combined to make flour, is Ezekiel bread. Two recipes for Ezekiel flour are included as well as a recipe for Ezekiel bread.
Two Types of Ezekiel Flour Made from Whole Grains and a Great Batter Bread Recipe
We have two variations of this flour.
Bread flour option 1
This recipe makes approximately four cups of flour.
You will need:
- 1 ¼ cups of wheat berries
- ¼ cup of whole barley
- ¾ cup of spelt berries
- 3 tablespoons dried beans (assorted)
- 2 tablespoons millet
- 2 tablespoons dried lentils (any type)
Combine all the ingredients in a flour mill and grind into a fine flour mix. Alternatively, grind in a blender.
Bread flour option 2
The second recipe is a little less labor intensive. The first two ingredients are easy to grind in a spice mill or seed grinder.
You will need:
- 2 tablespoons of millet
- 2 tablespoons of lentils
- ½ cup plus 2 tablespoons spelt flour
- 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons whole wheat flour
- 2 tablespoons bean flour
- 2 tablespoons barley flour
Combine all ingredients until they are thoroughly mixed.
Easy Ezekiel Batter Bread
You will need:
- ½ cup lukewarm water
- ½ a tablespoon of honey
- 1 packet (quarter ounce) yeast
- 8 cups Bread flour
- 1 ½ cups lukewarm water
- ½ a tablespoon salt
- 3 tablespoons oil (olive oil or coconut oil work well)
- Mix Ingredients A together and dissolve, allowing to sit for about ten minutes.
- Put Ingredients B into a large mixing bowl. To it, add the dissolved Ingredients A. Mix and knead until smooth. Cover the bowl. Allow mixture to rise in a warm spot until double in size.
- Knead the dough for 10 minutes on a floured surface after it has risen, and shape into two loaves.
- Place into two greased pans.
- Allow the dough to rise again (once more doubling in size).
- Bake in a preheated oven (375?) for between 45 minutes to an hour.
- Turn out on a rack, allow to cool, and enjoy.
© Copyright 2018 Michael Lam, M.D. All Rights Reserved.
Dr. Lam’s Key Question
Do whole grains contribute towards weight gain?
No, whole grains do not aid with weight gain. They are, in fact, low on the GI scale, which means you burn a lot of calories digesting them, which may actually help with weight loss! They are also excellent for adrenal support.