Saturday runversation with Dad: Is wheat a grain? Yes.

Saturday run with the pop – one of my favorite things to do when I’m in town and our schedules align. What I love most about our runs are the unexpected and interesting topics that come up. The topic of runversation this Saturday was about potatoes and wheat. It all started with me telling him about what I ate the evening before, which included potatoes. He looked at me and said, “You eat potatoes?” Valid question. I told him I don’t love potatoes, but ate all of them at dinner because I needed a carb of some sort, and ended with: “plus, potatoes aren’t bad for you, especially compared to bread.” Wait, why would a potato be better than bread? To me this question was ridiculous. To him, potato versus bread made no difference. In no time, we were in a full-fledged potato vs. bread debate. A bit comical, but led to some interesting insights and banter.

Dad! You don’t know this by now? Potatoes are better than bread because they are plant-based, your body can more easily digest the food, and they contain natural nutrients such as potassium (even more than a banana!) and calcium. The high potassium got his attention, but he didn’t really get it. He reasoned that bread is made of wheat, and wheat is good for you, and you have to cook a potato to eat it, just as you must cook wheat and water to make bread, and thus bread is made of natural ingredients and is good too. At that point, I felt it was a hopeless case, but was determined to make him understand. It was quite the challenge, and admittedly I didn’t do the greatest job at arguing my stance. It was because I didn’t know enough to truly break it down for him. So, when I got home, I did some research.

The first question I had for Google was, “is wheat good for you”? Before I could answer the potato versus bread question, I needed to better understand the ingredients in bread. Within seconds I was confused, trying to decipher between the terms wheat, grain, whole wheat, whole grain, and multigrain. I had a miGRAIN!

The first ah ha moment was that wheat is a grain! The second was learning the definition of a grain and that there are two categories you can bucket grains into: whole grains and refined grains. I knew that whole grains went through less processing, provided more fiber and nutrients, and were easier for the body to digest. All of this is true, but why? It comes down to one main reason, and it’s the refining. Refining actually causes a lot of problems. More than I realized. Turns out it strips away vital nutrients, makes foods harder for the body to process, and causes further health issues (i.e., sparks in blood sugar). Also, refined bread has less fiber (unless it has been unnaturally added), making it easier to eat more without realizing.

What happens in the grain refining process? After doing some reading, I remembered by using the acronym BEGBran (think fiber), Endosperm (think starch), Germ (think beneficial nutrients). Grains come in a three-part “whole” kernel. Refined grains only use one of the three-part kernel. In other words, you lose the B & G, leaving you with nothing but E. E contains some essential nutrients, but the good stuff is in the B & G, which are now kaput. Here’s a lovely photo for those of you who are more visual.

556px-Wheat-kernel_nutrition

So, what should you do? Remember the acronym BEG, and seek out products that are “whole.” If you don’t see the word “whole” on the package or in the ingredients list you will need to dig further or assume that the grain you are consuming has gone through some refining, a process that strips the food of B & G.

Now that we have grains squared away, back to the potato versus bread question. As you may have guessed, the answer is complex, and really needs its own explanation and post. I’m not going to go in depth right now, but I won’t leave you hanging. There are healthy breads out there, but if we are comparing white bread to white potatoes, unlike white bread, the starch in potatoes has not been refined to deplete nutrients.

What would I do? When in doubt, I’m still going for the potato versus the bread. Why? This article can provide you with wonderful facts and more details, but when it comes down to it, you are getting more bang for your buck with the potato. More nutrients, more vitamins, fuller faster and for longer, more stable blood sugar levels, lower cholesterol, better brain function, and easy digestion.

In conclusion, dad may know best, but in this case, daughter was right.

And I’m out,
Peace sign
Ida

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