Refined foods like refined flour, white bread, pastries etc., even though classified as complex carbohydrates, mainly contain starch without the nutrients. They are faster to digest than whole grains. They cause weight gain, reduced alertness, increased fatigue, and promote diabetes and heart disease. The consumption of these refined foods leads to an increase in insulin levels in the body, which causes the energy from the food to be stored readily as fat. They also lead to a spike in hunger and food cravings, causing us to eat more!
Increased consumption of complex carbohydrates from whole plant foods:
Contributes to greater satiety, keeping us full for longer periods of time. This means that snacking or binge eating habits can be stopped.
Give us greater sustainable energy with the same food portion as refined ones.
Leads to weight maintenance
May also reduce the risk of several chronic health conditions such as Type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and several forms of cancer.
Hence to stay healthy & prevent disease it is essential to choose whole foods.
So then what should you exactly eat?
Make healthier choices by using whole grains like whole wheat, oats, bulgur wheat, buckwheat, barley, spelt, rye as the base of your meals. Combine your whole grains with lean protein sources (preferably of plant origin) and add plenty of vegetables. Avoid eating them with foods high in saturated fat, salt and sugars.
Important to know: If a sufficient amount of carbohydrates are not taken then the body must turn to proteins/fats. Using protein and fats as the main source of energy is not a good idea as they are not clean fuel! They may give short term results but they require more amount of heat and leave too much residue in the body, which in the long term will lead to various health problems.
Whole grains with an Āyurvedic point of view Grains represent the highest potential of the plant (grass) since they can germinate and hence are considered very sattvic*. Whole grains are the most balancing food and are good for all constitution in moderation. They are nutritious, grounding & build body tissues.
Refined grains create āma (digestive toxins) which coats the intestinal walls and hampers the correct absorption of nutrients leading to various pathologies. Kapha is the only constitution that can be affected by over-use of grains but rarely Vāta or Pitta. Each constitution can preferably use grains best indicated for them but eating a grain not indicated for your type is still beneficial! Vāta: Wheat, Oats, Spelt, Rice – almost all grains are good for Vāta Pitta: Wheat, Orge, Oats, Rice Kapha: Orge, Rye, Buckwheat *sattvic foods are balancing and harmonious to the body & mind. They contribute towards spiritual development.
How to make that switch towards whole grains? People who are not accustomed to eating whole foods, especially grains & legumes, should not switch abruptly to a 100% whole grain diet since it can cause some digestive issues such as bloating & flatulence. The transition should be gradual. For example, mix white & brown rice, or white & whole flour in the beginning and steadily increasing the amount of whole grains. I can assure that if you bear with this temporary & minor discomfort it will be quickly outweighed by the benefits you will obtain with the whole foods diet!
A few tips:
If you eat breakfast: Look for whole-grain products as healthy breakfast options. Wheat, oats, barley, rye can be eaten as whole grain breakfast cereals.
Buy bread that lists whole wheat or whole rye or whole spelt or any other whole grain as the first ingredient. Once you are accustomed, try the one that is made with 100% whole grains!
Don’t peel your organic potatoes!
Eat your fruits instead of juicing them.
For lunch & dinner focus on using whole grains in forms of whole pasta, salad, flatbreads, or just steamed to be eaten with vegetables and legumes. Eg: Mixed bean salad made with couscous/ brown rice/ whole wheat pasta with cooked vegetables and cold-pressed olive oil dressing OR Lentils /beans vegetable curry served with brown rice/quinoa/wholegrain bread.
Limit foods that are highly processed & refined because they will create a nutritional deficit in your body by asking it to use more energy & nutrients to digest foods without getting anything in return
Every time you prepare yourself a meal please remember that a diet which is based on organic whole foods, inclusive of grains, vegetables, fruits & the right amount & quality of fats & oils can only lead you to health & not to weight gain.