Many people have differing opinions on the importance of grains in the diet.
Grains can serve as a cheap and nutritive meal source that is filling and high in fiber, although some are processed to a great extent and contain a lot of carbohydrates. Do grains have the potential to be incorporated into a healthy Keto or low-carb plan of living?
This is what you should be aware of if you’re including grains as part of your low-carb diet.
Varieties of seeds taken from plants that are used for nourishment are referred to as grains. They have a very long duration of use, which makes them a key component of many diets globally.
The majority of grains can be categorized as cereal grains, which are part of the grass family.
Wheat, oats, rice, and corn are some of the staples when it comes to cereal grains. Nevertheless, other plant families provide so-called “pseudocereals” that possess characteristics similar to standard cereal grains such as amaranth, buckwheat, and quinoa.
Whole grains consist of the full grain kernel, which is shielded by a high-fiber bran layer, has a nutrient-rich germ section, and includes the endosperm. When grains are processed into their more refined forms — like white flour or white rice — the outer layers of the kernels, including the bran and germ, have been taken away, leaving only the endosperm. This speeds up the cooking process of the grain and makes it easier to chew, but a lot of the nutrients are lost.
Therefore, numerous processed grain wares are fortified – meaning certain vitamins lost through preparation are reintroduced to the edibles.
Benefits of Grains
Grain foods are a cost-efficient way of obtaining fiber, vitamins, minerals, and instantaneous energy.
Whole grains, just like other plants, contain large quantities of dietary fiber. Consuming fiber can bring many advantages, such as enhancing digestion and keeping you satiated for a longer period.
Fiber acts as a nourishment for the beneficial bacteria in your digestive system. These microbes are able to break down fiber to some extent and generate small-chain fatty acids (SCFAs), which are vital for digestive wellness, regulation of blood sugar, immunity and neurological performance.
Whole grains can also provide us with vitamins and minerals such as plant-based iron, B vitamins, and selenium.
The body is able to utilize either carbohydrates or fat as a source of energy. The intention when following a Keto diet is for the body to rely mainly on fat as its energy source. Nevertheless, when there are carbohydrates, the body uses them as the primary source of energy.
Therefore, foods that are high in carbohydrates can provide a convenient and faster form of energy for the body. You may have heard of runners consuming lots of pasta prior to an extensive run, which is referred to as “carb loading”.
Downsides of Grains
Grains do not have to be labeled as unwholesome, however there are some drawbacks to certain grain-based eats – for instance, their elevated carbohydrate content, presence of gluten, and common utilization in heavily-processed food items.
High In Carbs
Grains boast a noteworthy quantity of carbohydrates, generally at least 30 grams of carbs per 0.5 cup serving. For Keto dieters, most grains are not allowed.
Many Grains Contain Gluten
Gluten, a type of protein, can be located within wheat, barley, and rye and is responsible for the structure and elasticity of bread.
Many people are sensitive to gluten to some degree. Those who have a minor sensitivity to gluten can experience an uncomfortable stomach when they eat it. For individuals that have a more serious condition, like Celiac disease, the gluten is likely to provoke an immunological reaction and potentially cause intestinal harm.
Grains Contain Antinutrients
Grain-based foods contain antinutrient elements such as lectins, phytates, and oxalates.
These compounds have the potential to bar the digestion of nutrients and can bring about extra health risks – for example, too much oxalates in the body can be a factor in the formation of kidney stones. Gluten is also widely considered an antinutrient.
A way to lower the amount of anti-nutrients is to permit grains to germinate before continuing to process them. Sprouted grains are usually simpler to process than their ungerminated counterparts.
Most Highly Processed Foods Contain Grains
Unfortunately, the negative perception of grains results from the abundance in which they are used in processed food products, including frozen meals, snack cakes, crackers, cookies, and other food items. A lot of processed foods have components derived from either corn or wheat.
It seems that these foods that have gone through extensive processing have a greater connection to obesity and certain health issues than foods that have had minimal or no modifications.
The Different Types of Carbohydrates
Macronutrients include carbohydrates, fat, and protein. The liver metabolizes carbohydrates into glucose, which is the body’s ideal energy source. There are three nutrient groups known as carbohydrates, which are starch, dietary fiber, and sugar.
Carbohydrates can be separated into two classes: simple and complex.
Simple carbohydrates such as sugar are different from complex ones, like starch and fiber. It is determined whether a food item is labelled as a simple or complex carbohydrate based on the number of sugar molecules present.
Single or double sugar molecules form simple carbohydrates. Monosaccharides, such as fructose (the sugar located in produce) and glucose, consist of a solitary sugar molecule. Disaccharides, such as lactose (the sugar found in milk) and sucrose (regular sugar), consist of two molecules.
Simple carbs come from:
- Added sugars: White sugar, brown sugar, honey, agave nectar, maple syrup, powdered sugar, and high fructose corn syrup.
- Naturally occurring simple sugars found in fruits and milk.
Foods that are high in calories but don’t provide any nutritional value, like soda and candy, should be avoided in order to maintain a healthy diet.
These calorie-deficient foods are likewise discovered in refined items, like white rice and white flour, which have had a lot of their supplements removed. Eating these foods may cause a sharp increase in your blood sugar levels since they include only sugar and no starch or fiber.
Simple carbohydrates are quickly digested, as they are rapidly taken up into the blood.
When talking about complex carbohydrates, examples include steel-cut oats, whole wheat bread, and wild rice which are all low-carb grains. Due to their high level of dietary fiber, complex carbohydrates generally contain fewer net carbohydrates than simpler ones.
Complex carbohydrates comprise of three or more sugar units, which are known as oligosaccharides or polysaccharides, and these take longer for the body to absorb compared to simple carbohydrates.
Complex carbs come in the form of:
- Starchy veggies: Potatoes, corn, parsnips, sweet potatoes, etc.
- Legumes: Lentils, chickpeas, black beans, kidney beans, etc.
- Whole grains: Bread, breakfast cereals, bulgur, quinoa, rice, etc.
Simple or Complex Carbs
There isn’t one particular carb that could be considered to be the best.
Carbohydrates are composed of three essential components: sugar, starch, and fiber. It is possible to get all three of these essential nutrients from a single food source. It is not often that one is able to discover an edible item in the wild that has only one out of the three primary nutrients.
For instance, sweet potatoes are called a fit food because they are a complex carb and classified as a starchy veggie. Nonetheless, they also contain both dietary fiber and sugar. Berries, although they are made up of sugar which is a simple sugar, are filled with fiber and vital antioxidants.
It shouldn’t matter if a carbohydrate is labeled as simple or complex in order to decide if it is healthy or not. Examine the amount of sugar, fiber, and starch present and consider what influence it has on your glucose levels.
How Starch Is Broken Down During Digestion
Starches are a type of complex carbohydrate that are made up of numerous glucose molecules linked together.
During digestion, starch is processed into glucose, just as sugar does, in order for it to be used to generate energy. Whole foods like brown rice, corn, white potatoes, peas, beans, oats, whole grain bread, and whole wheat pasta all contain starches.
If you know what foods are allowed on the ketogenic diet, you will understand that none of these foods are suitable.
Despite the fact that complex carbohydrates (like starch) are more highly regarded in many typical healthy living guidelines and are thought to be beneficial foods, your body breaks down starch just like it does processed sugar. Both carbohydrates and fats are broken down and converted into glucose for energy, thus preventing the formation of ketones for energy generation (ketosis).
How Fiber Works
Fiber is a complex carbohydrate found in plant foods. Fiber can be found in a variety of foods, such as non-starchy vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, beans, and wholegrains. Foods like cottage cheese, salmon, ground beef, and other animal products that have no carbohydrates do not provide any dietary fiber.
There are two kinds of fiber:
- Insoluble: It helps move food quickly through the stomach and intestines, regulating bowel movements, and preventing constipation. Examples are bran, seeds, vegetables, brown rice, and potato skins.
- Soluble: This type of fiber helps slow digestion and lower blood glucose and cholesterol levels. Examples include fleshy fruit, oats, broccoli, and dried beans.
Low-Carb Grains: Net Carbs vs. Total Carbs
When you are deciding whether to add low-carb grains to your diet, you should focus on the amount of net carbs they have rather than the amount of carbs in total.
Fiber is what distinguishes net carbs from total carbs.
Fiber cannot be processed by the body because it is indigestible, thus it does not cause shifts in blood sugar like carbohydrate sources such as starch and sugar do. To calculate how many net carbohydrates are in a certain food, use this formula (in grams):
Total Carbohydrates – Total Fiber = Net Carbohydrates
For instance, if a specific food item contains 20 grams of total carbohydrates and 12 grams of fiber, then the amount of carbohydrates would be 8 grams. Try the Perfect Keto macro calculator, which is free, to remember to remain on course.
The Best Low Carb Grains
If you are considering experimenting with grains, these options are some of lowest in carbs:
Net carbs per 2 cups, popped: 10 grams
Yes, popcorn is a grain! This is the most suitable option for a Keto diet. Popcorn is a quick and delicious treat that can be jazzed up with whatever seasonings you’d like to give it some zing. Just be careful to bypass anything that has sugar in it (like toffee or baked cocoa).
Net carbs per ½ cup: 14 grams
Corn is generally believed to be a starchy vegetable, not a grain, yet it is still utilized in a similar manner to other grains. This foodstuff can be consumed as is, or the grains could be processed into a powder for making pastries. Corn tortillas are a more sensible carb option than wheat flour tortillas.
The amount of net carbohydrates in a quarter cup of uncooked food is 22 grams and once cooked, this would yield a cup of it.
Cracked wheat berries are used to create bulgur, a popular ingredient employed in several types of dishes from the Mediterranean and Middle Eastern culinary traditions. This food has a bouncy consistency as well as a nutty taste, making it a more exciting substitute for rice and a wonderful combination to grain salads.
For every half cup of uncooked ingredients, there are 23 grams of net carbs. After being cooked, this equates to one cup.
Oats are adored for breakfast, however, they can also be used for a variety of other dishes. You can put chia seeds into shakes, blend them with oatmeal for a healthy breakfast, put them into various pastries, or even put them in savory meals instead of grains.
For every ¼ cup of uncooked rice, there is a net of 24 grams of carbohydrates which, when cooked, yields a full cup.
The pseudocereal known as quinoa (keen-wah) has become trendy over the past few years due to its high nutrient content. Compared to grains such as wheat, barley, and oats, this one contains higher levels of protein, as well as providing a significant amount of fiber.
¼ cup of the item, before being cooked, contains 26 grams of net carbs which will yield ¾ cup when cooked.
Spelt is a type of grain that has been utilized by people all over the globe since antiquity. Like quinoa, it’s rich in protein. This grain is very adaptable and can be employed instead of rice in many recipes. However, it does contain gluten.
A quarter cup of uncooked food will contain twenty-six grams of net carbohydrates, which will yield three-quarters of a cup when cooked.
Barley has an extensive background of being used globally. The flavor of this ingredient is not at all strong, with just a hint of sweetness, and it is frequently seen in meals from the East. In Korea, barley is utilized to produce a popular refreshment called barley tea. It is also a gluten-containing grain.
Incorporating Healthy Grains Into Keto Diet
Here are some strategies to help you incorporate healthy grains into your diet easily, while still being able to meet your health goals:
- Practice cyclical Keto. This is an advanced type of Keto diet that involves high-carb and low-carb days. Many athletes on Keto will practice this way of eating, with heavy workout days being high-carb days and recovery days being low-carb days.
- Choose unprocessed whole grains. Rather than pastas, breads, or crackers, try to enjoy whole grains in their most minimally processed form. This often is the form that’s richest in fiber and nutrients, and lowest in net carbs for the volume of food that you get. Additionally, this can help you avoid added sugars and other processed additives.
- Be mindful of serving size. When it comes to including grains in your low-carb diet, serving size is key. Without measuring your portion, your low-carb diet could quite easily become a high-carb diet. The most accurate way to measure and track grains is to weigh the dry grains before you cook them. You can use the Carb Manager app to log and track all your foods for the day.
Although most grains are not suitable for those following a Ketogenic diet, they can certainly be part of a cyclical Keto diet or even a more adaptable, low-carb consumption pattern. In their most natural state, they provide fantastically high amounts of fiber, vitamins, and quick energy.