How Humble Whole Grains Transform You

Carbs get a bad rap, particularly when it comes to healthy eating. However, whole grains have been a part of the human diet for at least ten thousand years, and probably much longer if you count ancient bean and grain crops found in east African settlements. 

The weight of evidence collected more recently suggests that whole grains are extremely good for us. In fact, people who eat more of them appear to experience a host of benefits. What’s more, there may even be topical and beauty applications, which we discuss below. 

The issue with carbs almost certainly comes from excessive refined flour and sugar intake. While these food-like substances provide calories, they also increase inflammation, leading to weight gain, aching joints, and a host of other unwanted health effects 

Before we get into the meat of the article, though, it’s worth quickly recapping what whole grains actually are. 

Whole grains refer to whole grain kernels (or the berry-like structure that crop grasses produce that contains the starch humans eat to sustain themselves). This comprises three parts: the bran, germ, and endosperm. 

The bran is the tough, outer shell of the grain which contains fiber, antioxidants, and other nutrients. The germ is a smaller, inner layer that offers minerals, proteins, and plant compounds. The middle layer is the endosperm, and it’s mostly carbs. 

When industrial food producers refine grains, they remove the bran and the germ, leaving only the endosperm. This is how we get white bread, flour, pasta, and rice. Machines remove the health-promoting elements of the grain, leaving only the damaging parts behind. 

So how do humble whole grains transform you? Let’s take a look. 

They Deliver Much-Needed Nutrients To Your Body

Because whole grains contain both the germ and the bran, they deliver nutrients that refined products simply can’t (even if fortified). 

For instance, whole grains are high in fiber. This helps to keep the food intact when it reaches your bowel, providing sustenance for healthy gut bacteria. 

It’s also full of antioxidants. Healthy whole grains contain sulfur compounds, lignans, and other beneficial phytonutrients that reduce inflammation levels in the body. 

They Repair Your Cardiovascular Systems

If you eat a conventional western diet, then your cardiovascular system is at risk. Studies show that people who eat a combination of meat and refined carbohydrates have the worst cardiovascular health, the highest blood pressure, and the most plaques in their arteries. While each of these components isn’t particularly harmful by itself, it is the combination that causes the most serious damage.

People who eat whole grains, particularly oats, appear to have the healthiest cardiovascular systems. Compounds in whole grains are protective, lowering the risk of heart disease and protecting people from the worst of plaque buildup. 

Interestingly, most of the benefit appears to result from what happens when the gut digests whole grains. Bacteria produce short-chain fatty acids which then get absorbed into the bloodstream, offering a plethora of health benefits. 

They Reduce Your Risk Of Stroke

Analyses show that the people who eat the most whole grains tend to have the lowest stroke incidence. Researchers think that this might be because whole grains provide more of the nutrients people need to stay healthy and lower blood pressure, such as potassium and vitamin K. 

Epidemiological studies back up these observations. People in Mediterranean countries who eat the most whole grains seem to avoid strokes until very old age. 

They Cut Your Obesity Risk

Many people are at high risk of developing obesity on a standard Western diet. It’s the perfect combination of high-salt, high-fat, high-sugar foods. 

Wholegrains, though, might offer people some protection. Studies suggest that they help fill the stomach and make people feel fuller for longer. For instance, people who ate three servings of whole grains per day had lower body mass index and overall better health. 

They Could Make Your Skin Look Great

Whole grains have the potential to make your skin look great, whether you apply them to the outside or the inside of your body. 

On the inside, whole grains reduce inflammation. The immune system becomes less active and, after several months, the beneficial effects show up on the skin.

On the outside, whole grains contain various compounds that allow the dermis to recover. For instance, using colloidal oatmeal for your skin can soothe chapped skin, moisturize, exfoliate and even provide relief after excessive sun exposure. 

Combining whole grains with other vegetables and fruits could provide even greater benefits. People who base their diets around whole foods and avoid industrially processed items may see conditions like acne and eczema clear up completely. 

They Lower Your Diabetes Risk

Type II diabetes remains a risk for adults when they get older. But you can lower it by improving your diet, specifically eating more whole grains. 

There are a couple of reasons for this. The first is that whole grains appear to reduce blood sugar levels associated with the characteristic insulin spikes that accompany diabetes. There’s also evidence that whole grains prevent weight gain, which is another major risk factor for the development of diabetes. 

Researchers aren’t quite sure what the reason for these observations is. Some propose that it is the magnesium whole grains contain. The mineral may help to sensitive the muscles to sugar in the blood. 

They Improve Your Digestion Dramatically

If you’ve eaten a Western diet all your life, it’s hard to explain how different things are when you make the switch to whole grains. It changes your digestion completely. You go from visiting the bathroom once per fortnight to going practically every day, and thinking it’s weird if you miss a day. 

The reason for this is simple; whole grains are prebiotics. They provide food to your gut flora, allowing them to bulk up your stools. Then, when they reach critical mass, it’s easy to push them towards the exit because they are so soft. 

They Eliminate Inflammation

Many diseases result from what researchers call “chronic inflammation.” This occurs when the immune system becomes hyperactive and starts flooding the system with cytokines, tiny chemical messengers that tell cells to switch on their defenses. If this happens for a day or two, that’s fine. Your body is probably fighting off an infection. However, if it drags on for years, then it’s not okay. Eventually, cells become exhausted, and the body can’t recover.

Regular refined grains actually contribute to inflammation. However, whole grains don’t. Instead, they actively oppose immune system activity, encouraging it to calm down. In fact, this is one of the reasons why public health bodies are so keen on whole grains. They may be the key to solving today’s epidemic of inflammatory diseases. 

They May Prevent You From Dying Early

Whole grains can’t keep you going forever, but they will probably extend your life through a variety of channels. One is by keeping insulin spikes down.

When you eat regular carbs, it creates a rush of glucose in the blood which the pancreas has to bring under control using insulin. However, whole grains don’t produce the same spike in blood glucose and, therefore, don’t raise insulin as much. 

This is important because insulin levels are closely associated with longevity. People with low levels tend to do better than those with high levels (but not always). 

Whole grains may also work to reduce the risk of aging via another mechanism: reducing insulin-blocking inflammation in cells. When cells are not in an inflammatory state, they are much better able to draw glucose from the blood, preventing damaging sugar spikes. 


There are all sorts of whole grains to choose from. If you don’t like one, try another. 

Many people try to eat the same whole grains as their ancestors. For instance, people of European descent might want to stick to oats, wheat berries, and rye. Those of Asian descent might choose wild rice. And those from Africa might want to check out freekeh, sorghum, and millet.

Any addition of whole grains to your diet or beauty routine will likely be beneficial. It’s just a small change, it doesn’t cost much (because grains are incredibly cheap), and it can make a tremendous difference to your overall well-being. After eating whole grains for a year or so, you’ll start to notice substantial changes in your figure. You’re not putting on weight like you used to, and you seem to have more energy. You don’t feel tired in the afternoon and you seem to be sleeping better at night. In fact, everything seems to be working better. 

These days, there are many products made using whole grains (or advertising them). You’ll want to be careful here. The effects on your body won’t be the same as eating the real thing in many cases. Brown pasta is okay because of how tightly manufacturers pack the flour. However, whole grain cereals are often still highly processed, even if they retain the germ and the bran, changing how they interact with your body. 

Always check packets for sugar content. Many manufacturers add refined sucrose to make their whole grain products more palatable.

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