Why Choose Whole Grains?

I will ask you to forgive me for the length of this post today, but I thought it was important to not only explain the benefits of whole grains, but also how they relate to the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and his teachings. I hope you enjoy it.

It’s amazing just how perfectly we have been provided for, with food which is naturally healthy, taking care of all of our needs for heart, blood sugar, weight maintenance and other health situations. The strength of ancient armies and their people was often dependent on the type of grain they had available to them. Egyptian wheat (what is known today as Kamut) was often cultivated on the flooded plains of the Nile River. It is said that ancient Roman and Egyptian gladiators were eaters of barley, just as many Greeks before them.

But what better role model do we have than The Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and his very own teachings and reactions in relation to the foods he ate. The Prophet (PBUH) never turned down any food he was offered, even if the taste was less to be desired. He was thankful for any food presented to him, no matter how little there was, or how plain.

I found the following information on “The Arab News” website and thought it was a perfect example of how our Prophet (PBUH) teaches us the value of whole grains (particularly barley), as well as how important it is to not waste any food fit for eating.

“A woman called Salma, who was close to the Prophet’s household, reports that three of the Prophet’s young relatives once came to her. These were his grandson Al-Hasan ibn Ali, his cousin Abdullah ibn Abbas and another cousin Abdullah ibn Jaafar. They made a request to her to cook them a dish that the Prophet used to like. She said to them: “You will not like it today.” They insisted that she should cook it for them. “She took some barley and cooked it. She then put it in a deep plate and added some oil. She then crushed some pepper and spices to add these and served it to them, saying: ‘This is a dish that the Prophet liked and enjoyed eating.’” (Related by Al-Tirmidhi.)

We note that the lady was reluctant to give these young men what they asked. The reason was that by the time when this took place the Muslim state had prospered and people were able to afford different types of food. Moreover, the Arabs had by then mixed with people from different areas which came under Islamic rule. They became used to their more sophisticated cooking. Therefore, the lady felt that the young men would not appreciate the simple food that the Prophet used to eat. However, they were keen to try it, because they wanted to experience some aspects of the Prophet’s life, and tasting the food the Prophet liked was one way of doing that.

The dish served by this lady companion of the Prophet was simple indeed, consisting of boiled barley which was mixed with oil and some spices. We should remember that she was not keen to serve them anything the Prophet used to eat, saying they would not like it after they had been used to far more sophisticated and tasty food. Therefore, she must have thought of the best that the Prophet ate, which needed spices and pepper to enhance the taste. By today’s standards, this was very simple food unsuitable to serve as a main dish.

Indeed the Prophet was grateful for any type of food, no matter how plain it was. A report by Anas makes it clear that the Prophet used to like the remainder that was left in a saucepan after the food had been served. This authentic report is significant because it shows that the Prophet was keen to teach his companions by practical example that no food should be thrown away if it was suitable to eat.”

Whole grains are nature’s perfect foods — they’re neatly packaged combinations of vitamins, minerals, fiber, protein and other nutrients we’re just beginning gain an understanding of. They come in a wide range of tastes and textures for us to enjoy.

A whole grain consists of three components: bran, endosperm and germ. Each of these layers has their own particular uses and attributes.

• Bran (the outside layer of grain) provides fiber, B vitamins and great texture and taste
• Endosperm (the middle of the grain) holds the bulk of the nutrients. Essential amino acids contained here help to create a vegetarian protein source, which works alongside fiber to boost the density of nutrition found in foods made with it.
• Germ (the center of a grain) contains fat and fat-soluble antioxidants such as vitamin E, and is by far the most delicious part of the grain

Over the years whole grains had been put aside and replaced with processed and refined grains that were easier and quicker to work with. The problem with this is that refined grains only contain the endosperm, leaving out many of the most important parts of this wonderful product of nature.

There are many different types of whole grains you can choose from. Some of the most popular ones are found below, with a small description of each one.

• Barley – Nutty flavor and a good source of heart -healthy soluble fiber
• Buckwheat – Not wheat, but a seed that contains high levels of an antioxidant called rutin
• Hard Red Wheat – Hard wheat has higher amino acid levels (protein building blocks) than its softer versions and is a beautiful red color as its name suggests
• Brown Rice – This grain has a delicate flavor, is hypoallergenic and gluten-free
• Rye – Also a good fiber source, this grain has a distinct earthy flavor
• Oats – This super-grain has soluble fiber and a smooth and sweet flavor
• Flax seed – Best consumed ground to obtain the best nutritional value, this grain provides both generous amounts of fiber and omega-3 fatty acids

The link between high cholesterol and heart disease is a well-known and documented fact. But simply by integrated more whole grains into your diet, especially those such as oats and flax seed you can reduce your cholesterol levels considerably. This in turn lowers your risk of heart disease. Changing to a diet high in whole grains will help ensure your heart keeps up its important work for much longer than if you stick to refined grains.

Because whole grains are complex carbohydrates, they naturally contain fiber and can’t be broken down and absorbed as quickly as simple sugars or refined grains. This results in a better maintenance of your blood glucose levels, potentially reducing or removing your need for insulin with Type II diabetics. You’ll also find your energy levels more stable as a result of slower release of sugar into the bloodstream.

Many of the fashionable diets out there these days are telling people to avoid grains as much as possible. They may not be the greatest at helping you keep a healthy weight, they still shouldn’t be forgotten. The nutrition available in the form of vitamins, minerals, complex carbohydrates and fiber, whole grains contain some of the best elements help keep you on the right path to maintaining a healthy weight.

Next Friday I’ll be blogging about different uses for whole grains, and provide you with some recipes you can try for a new, healthier you.

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