What Are The Health Benefits Of Cereals
Cereals are starchy foods, such as potatoes or legumes: foods that contain a high proportion of complex carbohydrates and starches.
However, carbohydrates play a central role in our diet because it is they which, by being transformed into glucose, provide essential fuel to the cells of the body. Compared to simple carbohydrates (those molecules responsible for the sweet taste), complex carbohydrates are absorbed more slowly in the body: they sustainably release energy in the body. Hence their name, “slow sugars.”
Cereals are a great way to meet our need for carbohydrates. Indeed, in comparison with other starches, their nutritional contributions (vitamins, minerals, etc.) are particularly interesting.
However, there is a significant difference between whole grains and refined grains. We are going to clarify this point first, so don’t skip reading.
Whole Grains: What Is It?
Each seed consists of an envelope (the bran), a kernel, and a germ. The so-called “whole” cereals have retained the three parts of the grain, while the refined or white cereals have been stripped of the bran and the germ to leave only the kernel.
This refining serves, above all, to prevent the alteration of the seeds and, therefore, to allow easier conservation. But it has a double consequence on the nutritional level: most of the contributions of cereals are in the envelope and are therefore absent from white cereals, and a refined grain will cause blood sugar levels to rise much faster, which creates high-calorie swings and can stimulate hunger and weight gain.
For this reason, the health authorities strongly advise gradually replacing white cereals with semi-complete and then complete cereals.
The nutritional intakes listed below, therefore, primarily concern whole grains.
The Nutritional Benefits of Cereals
Grain products, such as pulses, fruits, vegetables, and oilseeds, are very high in fibre. Fibres are complex compounds that have many virtues linked to the fact that our digestive system does not degrade them:
- Insoluble fibres fill up with water and promote satiety, which helps regulate transit, appetite, and weight.
- Soluble fibre slows the absorption of carbohydrates and helps lower blood cholesterol.
Cereals are also important sources of vegetable proteins that are poorly associated with lipids, unlike animal proteins. Cereals, therefore, make it possible to correct the imbalances of a current diet that is too rich in fat and lipids.
Oats, bulgur, millet, barley, rice, and quinoa are among the cereals most concentrated in protein. By combining them with legumes, also vegetable protein sources, our daily protein needs are largely met. ! You will find association ideas at the end of this article.
In addition, cereal products are a good source of group B vitamins, which, among other things, reduce cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, in particular:
- Vitamin B6, which plays a crucial role in the synthesis of certain antibodies and in our psychic balance
- Vitamin B9, or folic acid, has an essential role in the production of genetic material (DNA, RNA) and amino acids necessary for cell growth.
- Vitamin B12, which contributes in particular to the normal functioning of the nervous system
Cereals also contain vitamin E, whose antioxidant properties help fight against the premature aging of our cells.
Finally, cereals contain a good density of trace elements:
- Magnesium effective against demineralization, cramps, and stress
- Iron, which promotes blood oxygenation of cells and muscles
- Potassium, which maintains the acid-base balance of the body and cells
Precautions and Contraindications
Gluten Intolerance (Celiac Disease)
The majority of cereals contain gluten: this is the case for wheat, rye, oats, barley, or spelled. They can therefore cause reactions in people intolerant or sensitive to gluten.
Gluten-free cereals include rice, corn, millet, quinoa, and buckwheat. As for small spelled, it contains very little and may therefore be suitable for people with a simple sensitivity to gluten, but it is not recommended for intolerant people.
Whole grains can be a little harder to digest. The fibres they contain can indeed cause bloating problems, even diarrhea in people with irritable bowels, or when they are consumed in excess.
There are so-called infant cereals intended to gradually bring a solid diet to a baby (from 6 months). These cereals most often have the particularity of being enriched with iron, one of the first nutrients necessary for a child who only consumes milk foods.
Cereals and Calories
Many ranges, especially those intended for children, such as cereals coated or filled with chocolate, are very highly enriched in fast-acting sugars and have average levels of more than 30g of sugar per 100g of product. For comparison, rolled oats have an average of 4g of sugar per 100g, and corn flakes 12g of sugar per 100g.
The same goes for cereal bars. Despite its healthy marketing, muesli can contain much more sugar than the packaging suggests.
Take a good look at the labels and use the Nutriscore or databases to help you make your choice. You can, of course, also buy flakes or petals and make your own mixes!
Most Consumed Cereal in the Asian Continent
On the Asian continent, rice takes first place. For millennia, it has been among the offerings of Asian funeral rites. Its consumption and cultivation spread from the Middle Ages, but more than 90% of world rice production still comes from Asia (China, India, and Indonesia). According to the FAO, it is the staple food for more than half of the world’s population.
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