Fresh Living

grains.jpgToday’s Foodie Friday feature is not a recipe but a lesson in feel-good foods.  Specifically, why whole grains, which we all have heard make our tummies happy, can do the same for our brains.  I had some hunches about why this was, but instead of loping through an explanation myself, I turned to an expert:  Dr. Shilpa Saxena, an integrative physician and good friend of Fresh Living.  You might remember her from her springtime post on why asparagus makes our wee-wee smell funny.  Today, she gives us the skinny on why whole grains are feel-good foods.  I’m looking forward to hearing from you whether you feel focused, happy, energetic, or just generally good when you eat whole grains.  I know I’m at my best after my morning oatmeal….

Take it away, doctah!

Why Whole Grains are Feel-Good Foods

grains are undoubtedly the latest and greatest marketing trend among food
manufacturers.  Gone are the ‘Fat
Free’ and ‘Low Carb’ labels plastered all over our food.  What I find is that this ‘trend’ is
right in line with the groundswell of healthy eating that is sweeping our
country, and yes, they’re good for you and make you feel good!

The craze of the Red Bull, Power Bar, Gatorade days crashed both literally and
figuratively.  These types of
carbohydrates are known as simple sugars and convert to glucose (the body’s
energy currency) very quickly.  
This quick conversion leads to a rather steep spike in blood sugar.  And just like Newton predicted,
whatever goes up must come down. 
Unfortunately, when it comes to blood sugar the steeper the spike, the
faster the crash that follows.  So
these simple sugars give us a quick burst of energy, but leave us feeling
tired- not to mention the bloating that often accompanies sugary foods.

Whole grains like bulgar, wild rice, quinoa and even whole wheat, take significantly
longer to convert to glucose, so we call them complex carbohydrates.  This complexity results in a slow,
steady elevation in blood sugar (without the spike) which  then equates to a slow, gradual
decline.   Simply put, this
means we get long lasting, steady energy from whole grains.  Not only is this great for sustaining
our energy levels, but we feel fuller longer by choosing whole grains.  Additionally, whole grains are
nutritionally dense foods.  For
example, a serving of quinoa contains roughly 8 grams of protein and 5 grams of

Now, back to those marketing departments…..when reading food labels, steer
clear of any type of flour that touts itself as ‘enriched flour’ or the even
sneakier, ‘wheat flour’.  Most
commercial flour IS wheat flour. 
They got us a few years ago with ‘White Wheat’ bread, right?  White wheat bread is just ‘white bread’
in disguise.  A good rule of thumb
to follow… if it’s a white grain, it’s usually processed and no longer a whole
grain.  If it’s made of flour, be
sure the first ingredient reads “whole” something- whether you love
wheat, oats or something more adventuresome like amaranth.

I’m certainly not Sir Issac Newton, but my advice… slow and steady  wins the race (at least when it comes
to blood sugar) and stay away from the white stuff (unless it’s the freshly
powdered mountain top you’re meditating on).

Shilpa P. Saxena, M.D. is a Family Practice Physician specializing
in Functional Medicine in the Tampa, Florida area.  Visit her at

(image via:

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