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The Best Whole Grain for Weight Loss

Take almost any breakfast, lunch or dinner a grain will be the main ingredient of it. Take any food recipe and you will have a grain or grain powder as the critical ingredient. It is probably clear that the grain is the most consumed food item in the world and will remain so for at least next few decades. Given this lion’s share in our plates, we must think about which of these grains are actually best for us when it comes to achieving natural weight loss. This article is going to do exactly that – a fact finding mission to discover the best grain for weight loss. Read on if you love to know it.

Why do we eat so much grain anyway?

The grains make up the major portion of our plate is not by accident but actually it fulfils a critical purpose – To provide us with abundance of energy which we need everyday. It also provides this mainly through the rich carbohydrates content which is the most easiest to digest of all macro nutrients. Hence most grains will have high carbohydrate content in them. The differences start with other two major macro nutrients – protein and fibre. These are required in relatively lesser quantities but grains rich in them are typically considered better grains. Fats are the last of the macro nutrient which are present in even lesser quantities.

How does a good grain help in weight loss?

This is the big question, is’nt it? So let us look at how a good whole grain help us in achieveing natural weight loss? A good grain simply make us feel fuller for longer periods and hence reduce the amount of food we take. This will eventually lead to us eating less (junk) foods which will help reduce amount of calories we take everyday. This is probably the easiest way to reduce weight. If you combine a good grain with nice dose of fruits, veggies & nuts and some decent physical activity then you will surely see amazing results in four to six weeks.

So what makes a good whole grain?

Grains have a purpose – to provide us with good does of energy and most of them do it well. However, good grains will make it harder to digest the food and hence help us feel fuller for longer. This is possible mainly with a better quality of carbohydrates and higher quantity and quality of fibre and  protein in them.

In very simple terms it is the amount of fibre, protein and complex carbohydrates which determine how effective will the grain be in keeping us feel fuller for longer and stop our craving to eat more. So this enable us to eat less and achieve weight loss

The Comparison

This article will look at top 12 grains based on its macro nutrient content and other essential factors and try to score them. Here we will be comparing uncooked, raw wholegrains (or wholegrain powder) instead of their processed versions to ensure that the comparison is fair. The grains that we will be looking at are as below (sorry, if you eat something outside of the list but do pass it on and we will check and include it if possible). Please note that oat bran is techinically not a whole grain but actually a by-product produced when processing whole oat grains into more refined ones.

  1. Barley
  2. Brown Rice
  3. Buckwheat
  4. Corn
  5. Millet
  6. Oat Bran
  7. Oats
  8. Quinoa
  9. Rye
  10. Sorgrum
  11. Teff
  12. Wholewheat Floor

Macro Nutrients

As all grains that we have considered for comparison are raw unprocessed grains most of these have complex carbohydrates but we will be looking at their Glycemic Load which is a good indicator of how easy it is for the body to digest the food. Lower the number less easier to digest the food and hence better the food for weight loss.

Typically, the protein present in most vegan foods is of poor quality and hence a measure of quality of protein present in these grains would be a good measure of the grain. Fibres are differentiated as soluble and insoluble fibre but both are important for the body. Fibre helps us in many ways one of which is achieving natural weight loss as they make us feel fuller and reduce our need to eat more.

Most grains do not have much fat in them and those which do have do not have the (really bad) trans fats and (not so good) saturated fat in them. So let us look at the numbers, the winner and the reason.

Grains Calories Carbs GL Protein Protein Quality Fibre Fat ND Score Total Score
Oat Bran

246

66

16

17

86

15

7

56

243

Rye

335

70

33

15

80

15

3

47

214

Whole wheat Floor

339

73

36

14

54

12

2

48

207

Oats (Rolled)

379

69

39

13

95

10

7

42

201

Buckwheat

343

71

37

13

99

10

3

41

201

Quinoa

368

64

36

14

106

7

6

45

201

Barley

352

78

40

10

73

16

1

36

198

Teff

367

73

43

13

55

8

2

48

195

Millet

378

73

44

11

38

8

4

37

182

Corn

86

19

7

3

83

3

1

57

175

Brown Rice

370

77

53

8

75

4

3

32

169

Sorghum

339

75

47

11

40

6

3

25

166

Source: nutritiondata.self.com (all nutritent data in grams. For more click on the name links of each grain. GL – Glycemic Load, ND Score – Nutritional Data Completeness Score).

The best Grain in the world is..

Oat Bran

The Awesome Oat Bran

Oat Bran comes out the winner by a distance. If you look at the table, you can see that even though rolled oats is a version of oats it is nowhere close to oat bran at the finish line. While it is easily available in the most parts of the world, it is not as famous and readily available as rolled oats. So next time you go shopping make sure you ask for one of these.

While Rye and Wholewheat does take the distant second and third spots they are gluten based products. Given that there is a lot of research recommending reducing or removing gluten from our plates I would not be recommend them (or even barley). Given this, my top picks are Oats Bran, Buckwheat and Quinoa but it does not mean that the other grains are bad or not worth consuming. We can consume most of the above grains but point to note is that most grains get cooked and the impact of cooking will adversely affect grain nutrition and typically result in significant reduction in fibre and protein content.

Based on the comparison, the top picks are Oats Bran, Buckwheat and Quinoa. However, it does not mean that the other grains are not worth consuming.

I did look into the micro nutrient profile of the grains and it was as impressive as macro nutrients esp. for their vitamin content. Most of the grains did not have any vitamins in significant proportion and hence I thought it was not worth the effort to post it online (However you can download excel version of all the data and scoring here). The grains did have some decent amount of minerals in them and below is how each stack up.

Grains

Ca

Fe

Mg

Ph

K

Na

Zn

Cu

Mn

Barley

29

2.5

79

221

280

9

2.1

0.4

1.3

Brown Rice

23

1.5

143

333

223

7

2

0.3

3.7

Buckwheat

18

2.2

231

347

460

1

2.4

1.1

1.3

Corn

2

0.5

37

89

270

15

0.5

0.1

0.2

Millet

8

4

114

285

195

5

1.7

0.7

1.6

Oat Bran

58

5.4

235

734

566

4.1

3.1

0.4

5.6

Oats (Rolled)

52

4.3

138

410

362

6

3.6

0.4

3.6

Quinoa

47

4.6

197

457

563

5

3.1

0.6

2

Rye

33

2.7

121

374

268

6

3.7

0.5

2.7

Sorghum

28

4.4

0

287

350

6

0

0

0

Teff

180

7.6

184

429

427

12

3.6

0.8

9.2

Wholewheat Floor

34

3.9

138

346

405

5

2.9

0.4

3.8

Source: nutritiondata.self.com ( All mineral are denoted by respective periodic table symbols & all nutritent data in milligrams. For more click on the name links of each grain in the above table.)

Verdict

Grains currently take up the elephant’s share in our plate. The best grains are whole grains with reduced glycemic load and very good dose of protein and fibre. Such whole grains help us feel fuller for longer and reduce our craving to eating more and indirectly and naturally help in excess weight loss. Oat Bran, Buckwheat and Quinoa came out as the best grains in the comparison.

However, grains are not the best source for micronutrients primarily vitamins and hence there are number of studies which suggest reducing the amount of grain intake and increase vegetable portion in our plates. Vegetables not only provide us with all essential macro nutrients, they are also much richer source of micronutrients i.e. vitamins and minerals. Given that most of them have lesser calories we can in fact consume more of them. The main thing we need to do is to eat a variety of vegetables and fruits each day.

Eating Uncooked Oatmeal Vs Cooked Oatmeal

Cooking as we know has been the essense of food prepration as it enables richer blending of ingredients and brings in much needed taste to it. However research conducted in last few decades has shown the ill effects of cooking on nutritional value of the food we eat. Cooking alters the structure of the ingredients and hence in most cases reduce its nutritious value. In the same lines, there is lot of curiosity out there to know the benefits of uncooked oatmeal as oppose to cooked oatmeal and this article explores the same (and why not know the comprehensive benefits of oatmeal in the first place) .



Uncooked Oatmeal Vs Cooked Oatmeal Comparison

We only have data available for 100 grams of each cooked and uncooked oat bran. As the cooked oatmeal have significant amount of water in it, it skews the comparison proportionately. The difference is such that cooked oatmeal food displays lower numbers for every element as water contributes to make up good chunk of 100 grams of sample being considered. Below comparison hence should be taken into consideration with this point in mind. The comparison has been broken down by type of elements i.e. proximates, minerals and vitamins.

Prioximates

Element Unit Cooked Oat Bran Uncooked Oat Bran
Energy kcal 40 246
Carbohydrate g 11.4 66.2
Protein g 3.21 17.3
Fibre g 2.6 15.4
Fat g 0.86 7.03

 

Minerals

Element Unit Cooked Oat Bran Uncooked Oat Bran
Calcium mg 10 58
Iron mg 0.88 5.41
Phosphorus mg 119 734
Potassium mg 92 566
Magnesium mg 40 235

 

Vitamins

Element Unit Cooked Oat Bran Uncooked Oat Bran
Thiamin mg 0.16 1.17
Riboflavin mg 0.034 0.22
Niacin mg 0.144 0.934
Vitamin B-6 mg 0.025 0.165
Vitamin E mg 0.0 1.01

 

Verdict

Though this comparison easily gives an impression that uncooked oatmeal is the way to go as it has higher portion of every nutrient. For example, there is around 50% reduction in fibre and protein content of oat bran which is really bad. The effect of cooking is not limited to oat bran but to most grains and food items.  Having said that, eating raw grains is not for everyone but the bottomline is we should avoid cooking food as much as possible. We can certainly help ourselves by using other means to make grains digestable like soaking or steam cooking instead of cooking or worse pressure cooking it. The real challenge most of us face is that we find it hard to compromise with taste even when there is huge health benefits.  Those of us who can over come this challenge can find it easier to be healthy.

 

References

USDA – Uncooked dry Oat Bran

USDA – Cooked Oat Bran