Understanding the Connection Between Whole Grains and Health
The wise, centuries-old saying, “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food” by Hippocrates, the father of medicine, has taken on new meaning recently. New research is renewing people’s interest in the health benefits of foods. Savvy consumers are taking their health into their own hands and looking to food to prevent disease.
Health professionals, such as registered dietitians, want Canadians to reap the health benefits of whole grains. Consuming whole grains is associated with reduced incidence of chronic diseases that are major causes of illness and death in Canada, such as type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, obesity and cancer.
Research by Dr. Trust Beta, Canada Research Chair in Grain-Based Functional Foods, has confirmed that whole grains are excellent sources of biologically active compounds, such as dietary fibre, polyphenols and carotenoids. These have potent antioxidant, health-promoting properties.
The health-protective effects of whole grains are thought to come from compounds called phytochemicals (plant chemicals) that are concentrated in the bran and germ parts of whole grains. Among the many possible mechanisms by which whole grains may prevent chronic disease, their anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory actions hold significant promise.
Whole grains are complex mixtures of nutrients, non-nutrients and phytochemicals that may work together to prevent chronic diseases. As a result, no single nutrient, phytochemical or specific combination has yet been identified as responsible for the many health benefits of whole grains. The goal of research by Beta and her team is to unlock their full potential and use in innovative food products.