Grains, grains, grains
We’re willing to bet that the most frequently asked questions in wholefood stores are about grains. It’s hardly surprising given the variety of grains and quasi-grains available in all their myriad colours, shapes and forms, many of which are either ancient or exotic, or both ancient and exotic.
From “what is triticale?” to “I’ve just been diagonosed with Coeliac disease- what can I eat?” at Wholefoods House we’ve heard them all. Here’s an introduction…
Grains are simply the edible fruit seeds of certain grasses. A staple food in both developing and developed nations, grains are grown in larger quantities than any other crop and account for the majority of energy consumed by human beings.
As a foodstuff, wholegrains contain all three important edible elements of the grain- the endosperm, the germ and the bran- in the proportion that they occur naturally: just as nature intended.
Anatomy of Grains
Endosperm The bulk of the grain, the endosperm is the large central component and provides energy in the form of protein and carbohydrates.
Germ The germ is the reproductive element of a grain and provides nourishment for the seed in the form of antioxidants and Vitamins E and Bs.
Bran The bran is the edible outer casing of a grain and provides fibre, B Vitamins and trace minerals.
Hull The hull is the protective casing of a grain. It is inedible for humans and is fed to animals in the form of chaff.
Organic Wholegrains vs Refined Grains
Minimally processed organic wholegrains are a rich natural source of essential vitamins and minerals, complex carbohydrates, healthy fats and oils and protein. On top of that they each have a wonderfully unique flavour and texture.
Unfortunately many grains today are consumed in their refined form, such as in white rice and white bread. Refined grains have the beneficial germ and bran removed, leaving the nutrient deficient, starchy endosperm as the only component. The by-products of milling white flour are then sold seperately (as wheat germ and oat bran etc.). They contain concentrated amounts of nutrients and fibre and must be stored carefully to prevent spoiling. Removing the germ and bran maximises a grain’s shelf life, but the trade off is a radically inferior and unbalanced nutritional profile. Moreover, the taste and texture of refined grains and their derivatives tend to be bland and character-less.
Read more about specific grains