Grains are a very important part of our diet. They form a major chunk of our daily meals with being an excellent source of energy and other nutrients.
Grains are a major source of carbohydrates which we need to derive energy. Approximately 55-60% of our diet constitutes carbs. Grains are available in both whole and refined form. The refined form is primarily used to make processed foods, bread, cakes, cookies, pasta, pastries, muffins and noodles. However, consumption of refined grains is associated with an increased risk of obesity, diabetes and high cholesterol levels. Therefore, it is important to focus on whole grains which contain complex carbs and additionally come with the benefits of dietary fibre, vitamins and minerals.
In this article, we will specifically talk about grains that should be preferred while planning a cholesterol-lowering diet.
1. Whole Wheat - Whole wheat consists of the entire grain including the bran, germ and endosperm. It contains complex carbohydrates, hence prevents the sudden rise in blood sugar levels. It takes time to digest, keeps us full for long, provides sustained energy for a longer duration hence good for diabetics as well. Whole wheat is packed with dietary fibre. The main dietary fibre present is arabinoxylan which is approx. 70% and a type of hemicellulose meaning insoluble fibre. This high dietary fibre content makes wheat good for people with high cholesterol levels. It prevents bad cholesterol levels from rising and promotes HDL levels in the body. Another reason which makes wheat good for reducing cholesterol is the presence of certain plant compounds and antioxidants like ferulic acid, alkylresorcinols, lignans and lutein. In addition, whole wheat contains minerals like selenium, manganese, phosphorus, folate and copper. Hence, prefer whole wheat chapatis and other products in the diet over refined ones.
2. Quinoa - Quinoa is another nutrient-dense grain. Even being rich in carbs, quinoa is a plant-based good quality protein source as it contains all nine essential amino acids. Quinoa is also rich in dietary fibre which aids in lowering cholesterol, keeps our heart healthy, keeps us full for longer, promotes weight loss and alleviates constipation. One of the key features of quinoa is that it is gluten-free hence suitable for gluten intolerants or allergic people. It contains vitamin E as a powerful antioxidant, minerals like folate, iron, magnesium, manganese and potassium. Quinoa is excellent for keeping heart diseases, infections, diabetes and cancers at bay due to the presence of two plant-based antioxidants - quercetin and kaempferol.
3. Amaranth - Amaranth is a power-packed grain. Similar to amaranth leaves, its seeds and flour also come with many health-boosting properties. Amaranth seeds contain a peptide called lunasin, having the potential to combat inflammation and prevent certain chronic conditions like cancer, diabetes, stroke and other heart diseases. Amaranth protein is known for its anti-hypertensive properties. Several studies have shown that consumption of amaranth causes a decrease in LDL cholesterol levels and improvement in overall triglyceride profile. Additionally, it is rich in phytosterols having exceptional cholesterol-lowering properties. People with elevated cholesterol levels can also use amaranth oil for cooking and improving overall heart functioning.
4. Rye - Rye grain has also been shown to benefit us in multiple ways. It is considered more nutritious and filling than wheat. Rye intake is associated with better blood cholesterol and glucose levels. It is good for weight loss as rye provides satiety for a longer duration. Studies indicate that it is good for improving insulin sensitivity and overall glucose profile. Rye can be used in flour or porridge form in our diet to enjoy the benefits. It reduces inflammation and keeps our organs healthy.
5. Oats - This incredibly nutritious cereal is rich in soluble fibre called beta-glucan which makes it perfect for lowering high cholesterol levels. It is the high soluble fibre content that helps in boosting metabolism, promoting weight loss, reducing high blood sugar and cholesterol levels. Oats are naturally gluten-free but may get contaminated during processing or storage. Hence, people sensitive to gluten should consume oats labelled as gluten-free. Along with providing complex carbs, oats have numerous vitamins and minerals like magnesium, calcium, phosphorus, copper, zinc, folate, vitamin B1 and B5. In addition, they contain avenanthramides which are powerful antioxidants with outstanding blood-pressure-lowering, anti-inflammatory abilities. Therefore, oats are one of the best cereals to opt for if aiming to keep your heart healthy.
To conclude, whole grains are perfect in order to improve cholesterol profile. They are not only rich in nutrients but also contain many plant-based compounds which specifically assist in keeping our heart healthy and improving overall well-being.
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