Why you should eat more wholegrains

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Most runners haven’t met a carb they didn’t like, and for good reason. Runners rely on carbohydrates as the primary fuel source that powers their workouts. And when you reach for wholegrains (wheat, rice, corn, barley, oats), you’ll get a host of health benefits. 

A kernel of a wholegrain is the plant’s seed, which includes the endosperm (centre), germ (the part that turns into a new plant) and the outer hull, or bran layers. The endosperm may be the source of carbohydrates, protein and energy, but when you refine a grain, you strip it of the germ and bran layers, losing their fibre, B vitamins, iron, magnesium, zinc, vitamin E and antioxidants. 

It really does make a difference if you skimp on wholegrains.  A recent meta-analysis report looked at numerous studies that examined the relationship between wholegrain intake and chronic diseases like cardiovascular disease and cancer, and death. The study found that wholegrain intake was associated with a reduced risk of many of these chronic conditions, as well as infectious diseases, respiratory illness, and diabetes.

Consuming three servings of wholegrains per day (90g per day) reduced the relative risk of coronary heart disease by 19 percent, cardiovascular disease by 22 percent, cancer by 15 percent, and death by 17 percent. And having up to seven and a half servings per day (225g per day) resulted in an even greater reduced risk of these chronic diseases and death. 

These health benefits are likely attributed to the nutrients found in the germ and bran. Fibre has been associated with a reduced risk of coronary heart disease, stroke, some cancers, and death. The soluble fibre (found in whole oats and fruit) has been shown to help reduce cholesterol. Wholegrain intake has also been linked to lower levels of inflammation. More good news? It’s relatively easy to substitute wholegrains for refined grains and reap the health benefits. 

POWER UP WITH WHOLEGRAINS

Choose foods that have wholewheat, wholegrain, oats, brown rice or wheat berries listed as the first ingredient to ensure the product is truly a wholegrain.

Start early

Begin your day with a bowl of porridge topped with fresh or dried fruit, wholegrain cereal with milk and fruit, or wholewheat toast spread with avocado and topped with tomato slices. 

Swap it out
Runners can’t (and shouldn’t!) live without pasta. But make it healthier by replacing white pasta with wholewheat. (But be cautious right before a race; wholewheat’s high fibre count could send you running for the portable loos.) Try wholewheat pasta tossed with veg and beans. You can make this easy swap with other runner staples like bread and race-day pancakes.