Whole grains have been a staple part of the human diets since humans started to cultivate cereal crops in the Middle East ten thousand years ago.
The grains (seeds) of cereal grasses were ground to make flours, but it was only in 350 BC that the larger civilizations, like those of the Greeks and Romans, began to grind grains more finely to make ‘white’ flour.
These have since become wildly popular, yet refined grains and flours are far more meagre in nutrients and fibre than their whole grain equivalents.
The tide is slowly turning though, as more and more people become aware of the benefits of eating whole grains for high blood pressure – and a variety of other health reasons.
So what exactly are whole grains?
The kernel of a grain, wheat for instance, is made up of four parts:
The ‘germ’ is the innermost part, the embryo of the plant, which would germinate and grow if the grain was planted; this is where most of the nutrients are concentrated, so its rich in vitamins and minerals and oils the ‘endosperm’ is the starchy part that makes up most of the grain the ‘bran’ is the layer which surrounds the endosperm, which is rich in fibre and nutrients the ‘husk’ is the harder outermost covering, which is inedible.
The husk is always removed during the process of milling the grain, but with refined grains, the bran and germ parts are removed too. This just leaves the endosperm, which is full of starchy carbohydrate but not much else.
Whole grains on the other hand still have the germ and bran parts, and so are full of all the original nutrients and fibre.
Refining grains extends the shelf life of the grain, and of course, gives it a finer texture, but is this really worth it, when most of the original nutrients of the plant are lost?
This loss of nutrition is compounded by the practices of mass agriculture, which means that many grains today, even if not refined, are less nutritious than in the past. All the more reason to switch to whole grains to get as much natural goodness as you can.
Why whole grains are better
Compared to refined grains, whole grains are rich in nutrients, high in fibre, and don’t raise blood sugar levels as much – all of which means it’s helpful to eat whole grains for blood pressure.
Eating whole grains regularly can reduce your risk of heart disease, protect against metabolic syndrome – which is linked to heart disease and stroke, and be helpful in losing/controlling weight.
Adding whole grains to your meals
So it’s a good idea to replace any refined grain products you eat with whole grain products.
You can do this gradually – by changing just one product at a time. This is easier on your body anyway, especially if you’re not used to eating much fibre. Try to make “half your grains whole”, as the US Dietary Guidelines suggest.
Have whole grain bread instead of white bread, whole grain pasta, brown rice. And eat whole grain oats for breakfast!
Most processed or ready-made food you buy – like crackers, pastries, cookies etc – will be made from refined white flour. So look for whole grain versions, e.g., in health food shops, or make it yourself with whole grain flour (or even just half whole grain flour, half regular flour).
How to eat more whole grains
There are many opportunities to switch to whole grains – it’s not restricted to pure grain products like bread, pasta or rice. Any product containing grains or flours, you can find a whole grain alternative – bagels, muffins, crackers.
The same goes for cooking and baking – you can use whole grain flours and grains in all kinds of recipes, not only the main ingredient in baked goods, but also as fillers and thickeners in soups and stews.
You can mix and match too – mix whole grain and regular pasta for example (you may need to cook them separately though, as they make take different times to cook). And if you aren’t keen on some particular whole grain alternative, try a new grain altogether: quinoa is a great substitute for couscous or white rice; spelt pasta, bread or flour is a good replacement for wheat.
As well as buying whole grain pasta, you can also make your own pasta from scratch. If you’re interested in doing this, you could try this delicious recipe for whole wheat sage spaghetti, shared with us by Jennifer from the ‘Jen Reviews’ website: Whole Wheat Sage Spaghetti – Jen Reviews (just go easy on adding presunto, since cured meats aren’t good for high blood pressure).
Buying whole grain products
When you’re switching to whole grain products, do yourself a favour, and give a little attention to making sure you’re getting a good quality whole grain product.
When buying bread for example, go for freshly baked whole grain bread when you can, rather than a pre-packaged bread, which probably won’t taste as good and will be full of additives and possibly sugars that you don’t need.
If you’re going to make a difference, then make it count.
As always, it’s important to always read labels when you’re buying food, to make sure you’re getting what you think you are. However, this is particularly important for whole grains, as their labelling can be slightly misleading. Many names and phrases are used which are designed to sound wholesome and healthy, but when you read the list of ingredients you might still find the main one to be wheat flour or some other refined grain.
Look for foods labelled as ‘whole grain’ (or ‘whole wheat’, ‘whole oats’ etc), and preferably labelled ‘100% whole grain/wheat/whatever’. Look at the list of ingredients too – and make sure that ‘whole grain’ appears among the first few ingredients.
And enjoy eating whole grains whole-heartedly – good for your overall health including your heart and blood pressure.
Lower your blood pressure naturally
In addition to whole grains there is a large choice of affordable natural ingredients that lower blood pressure. Many of these spices, herbs, berries, fruits, vegetables, meats and drinks are available in local stores.
Of course there are other factors beyond diet (like fitness and stress) that affects your blood pressure. So the best way to lower your blood pressure without drugs is to apply a broader approach – covering all causes and cures with natural home-based remedies.
These progressive steps are based on the principle that positive incremental change is always best in health matters.
Each chapter will take you further along the road of greater vigour and peace of mind (and a healthy blood pressure).
Click on the link below for more information:
P.S. This guide shows you how to lower your blood pressure permanently and naturally without side-effects or complications.
Follow each step to get your blood pressure back in balance.
Choose between a wide range of delicious foods that reduce your blood pressure. Include a number of mental and physical exercises in your schedule for both relaxation and invigoration.
Following this guide will reduce, and in time, eliminate your need for blood pressure lowering medications.
This is a guide for good healthy living and will be beneficial for all – even if you don’t currently suffer from high blood pressure.
To download a sample of the guide to your computer right now click here and scroll to the bottom of the page for the download link.
(Image credits: Chiot’s Run, Meal Makeover Moms, MellowFood on Flickr.com)