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August 2007

Whole Grains vs. Refined

Posted by Foodie101 Aug 20, 2007

Whole grains vs. Refined grains



Whole grains are considered foods in their natural state while white carbohydrates are often refined grains. Adding more whole grains to our diets and reducing the refined carbs may lead to longer healthier lives.



A whole grain has the entire kernel still intact.  The kernel consists of the bran, germ and endosperm. The bran or outer shell protects the seed. It provides fiber, B vitamins and trace minerals. The germ's function is to provide nourishment to the seed, if it were to sprout, thus providing antioxidants, vitamin A and vitamin E. The germ can go rancid in whole grain products and lessen the shelf life if not refrigerated.  A refined grain has been processed so that only the endosperm remains, providing energy from carbohydrates and protein.



Whole grains have been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease and certain cancers. The fiber, vitamins and minerals all have well known attributes. Additional benefits from whole grains are antioxidants, lignans, phenolic acids, phytoestrogens, and other phytochemicals. The entire package of nutrients makes adding whole grains to our diet an important step towards good health.



Whole grains are beneficial towards the control of Diabetes because they are more slowly absorbed into the body than refined grains. This leads to better blood sugar control by having the equivalent of a slow drip of carbohydrate into the bloodstream rather than a sudden rush. With a rush of refined sugars, blood glucose levels can become high very quickly which is dangerous to a diabetic. Slowing down carbohydrate absorption is beneficial for all of us because it puts less stress on the pancreas to secrete insulin.  In theory this should lower the risk of developing diabetes. Diabetes is a condition where the pancreas fails to secrete enough insulin or a person's insulin loses its effectiveness.



Although fiber has no nutritional value it offers very important health benefits.  Fiber passes through our systems undigested and is classified as soluble and insoluble. Soluble fiber in whole grains dissolves in water and forms a gel in our digestive tracts adding bulk which prolongs stomach emptying time so sugars are released and absorbed more slowly. Soluble fiber in oatmeal has been shown to reduce cholesterol levels. Insoluble fiber adds bulk speeding up transit time in the intestines. Insoluble fiber is important to maintaining a healthy pH in the digestive tract. Whole grains fill you up easier and may lead to an overall reduced amount of calories eaten.



Whole grain products can be identified by the ingredient list. Typically if the ingredient lists"whole wheat" or "whole corn" as the first ingredient, the product is a whole grain food item. Another way to identify whole grains in the foods we eat is to read the nutritional facts information and examine the dietary fiber content. If a serving provides more than 3 grams of fiber it most likely contains whole grains.



Refined grains have been milled to remove the bran and germ layer, leaving just the endosperm. The grain is stripped of most of its iron content, fiber, and B vitamins (thiamin, niacin, riboflavin, and folate). This process improves the shelf life and gives products a finer texture. Manufacturers later "enrich" products by adding synthetic B vitamins and iron back into their products but in lesser quantities. Fiber is not added as part of the enrichment process.  



"Wheat flour"is not necessarily a whole grain. Many baked goods are colored brown, often with molasses, and made to look like whole grain. Try to purchase bread that has the words "whole wheat flour" on the label and in the ingredients.



Examples of whole grains are: whole wheat, whole oats, whole grain corn, popcorn, brown and wild rice, whole rye, whole grain barley, buckwheat, quinoa, tritacale, millet, bulgur and sorghum.



Examples of refined grains are: white bread, white flour, white rice, grits, pasta, corn tortillas, pretzels, crackers and degermed cornmeal.

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What about Hydration?

Posted by Foodie101 Aug 20, 2007


Why is Water Important?


Water needs to be considered an essential nutrient. Because of easy access we take water for granted and do not realize the importance of proper hydration. According to experts, water is ranked second only to oxygen as essential for life. Your overall body weight is 2/3 water. A person can survive about two months without food, but only a few days without water.



Water is the most abundant ingredient in the human body through all phases of growth and development. Every system in your body depends on water to function.



  • Water is essential to your body's temperature regulation, keeping it cool through perspiration.

  • Water flushes out toxins and wastes.

  • Water is a major component of blood which carries nutrients and oxygen to and from all cells.

  • Water provides a moist environment for all body tissues. It is the major component of saliva and mucous which lubricates the membranes that line our digestive system beginning with the mouth. Mucous membranes in the nose and eyes function better when well hydrated.

  • Water cushions joints and protects tissues and organs like the brain from shock and damage.

  • Water helps maintain a healthy weight. It is hard to distinguish between hunger and thirst. If you feel hungry, drink some water first and then reassess your hunger status.


Water is an important part of your daily bodily functions, so it is important to continually replenish it. Each day, your body loses 2-3 quarts of water through sweat, urination, excretion and breathing. The body loses even more water if you exercise, live in hot or dry climates, consume high fiber diets, and consume caffeine or alcohol. It is recommended to drink 8-10 cups of fluid a day, adding more water if any of the previously stated situations apply.


Signs of illnesses, such as fever, vomiting or diarrhea, cause your body to lose additional fluids. In these cases, you should drink more fluids and may even need oral rehydration solutions like Gatorade or Powerade. Bladder infections and urinary tract stones also require increased water intake. On the other hand, conditions such as heart failure and certain conditions relating to the kidney, liver or adrenal glands may impair excretion of water and may require a limited fluid intake.



Gatorade and Powerade are energy drinks that help your body rehydrate during and after exercise. The drinks are intended to replenish carbohydrates and electrolytes that are lost during exercise. The carbohydrates are in the form of the sugars sucrose and glucose. Electrolytes like sodium and potassium are also supplemented in these beverages.



Consuming caffeinated beverages may be a concern because caffeine acts as a diuretic and can cause increased urination. Caffeine is found in coffee, teas, and many soft drinks. Try to drink caffeinated beverages in moderation and focus on consuming more water.



To help increase your water consumption, try:



  • Adding lemon or lime to water. Drink no-calorie flavored water.

  • Eat foods that have higher water content like: cucumber, watermelon, lettuce, celery, grapes, oranges, tomatoes.

  • Drink non-fat milk.

  • Keep a water bottle handy.

  • Mix ice and fruit in a blender to create a smoothie.

  • Try decaffeinated tea or coffee.

  • Soda and juice are okay once in awhile, but it is preferable to drink other liquids because soda and juice have more calories and sugar than water. Soda has caffeine while water and juice do not.


Do not wait until you feel thirsty. It may already mean that you may be slightly dehydrated.

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Member since: Aug 20, 2007

This is the place to find out about anything relating to nutrition. I am a licensed registered dietitian who wants to answer any questions and provide some wisdom of my own. We all want to be healthy on the outside and on the inside.

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