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Feb 16

The Great British Diet: how eating pulses and grains can help you lose weight and live longer –

Fava, einkorn and emmer. You would be forgiven for assuming these were the names of east London whippetsor the offspring of some minor European royals. In fact, they are the forgotten ancient grains and pulses that could give your health a much-needed boost.

In this country, we are starting to get our heads around the almost magical health-giving qualities of pulses and wholegrains. We know the health benefits of gut-friendly, slow-proved sourdough made with good quality wheat compared to a starchy supermarket loaf and many of our store cupboards now contain a good range of chickpeas, beans, rice and lentils to add to curries, soups, salads and stews.

But when it comes to grains and pulses, most of us are stuck in a rut, and relying on mass-produced imported goods. Its time we learned to love the delicious, nutritious alternatives our land has to offer, which provide the variety of nutrients our bodies evolved to eat.

Along with plant-based protein, pulses and grains are rich in dietary fibre, which we could all do with eating more of, says nutritionist Amelia Freer. Eating two portions of wholegrains per day has been proven to help with weight loss and protect against diseases especially colorectal cancer, stroke, diabetes and heart disease.

Fibre is also considered the first step to a healthy gutas it feeds beneficial bacteria important for the immune system.

Modern wheat has become by far and away the dominant grain that is grown and eaten today, but its now mostly used in a processed state, with a diminished fibre content and nutritional value, says Freer.

During milling and processing (where grains are turned into flour and then made into other products like bread and pasta), the fibre-packed bran and the germ, which contains the vast majority of the grains nutrients, are often removed to make a finer, whiter flour.

British buckwheat flour is a delicious alternative to try in cakes and biscuits or for Shrove Tuesday pancakes this week. Buckwheat is actually a seed or pseudograin, so keeps you feeling fuller for longer than white flour, and its rich in nutrients such as magnesium and B vitaminsalong with protein and fibre.

Centuries-old grains like einkorn, emmer and spelt are generally thought to offer more protein, fibre, and vitamins than modern grains as they havent been processed through hybridisation or genetic modification. Rather, theyre grown just as they were centuries agoand are often better for us.

Spelt, which can be eaten whole, for example in salads, or milled for delicious bread or pastais packed with iron, micronutrients like magnesium important for activating muscles and nerves and creating energy in the body and B vitamins.

Spelt also releases energy more slowly, meaning you stay fuller for longer (good for anyone looking to lose weight) and can be kinder on sensitive stomachs compared to modern wheat that has been bred to contain a high gluten content.

Nick Saltmarsh, co-founder of Hodmedodswhich sells British-grown whole grains and pulses, recommends eating grains like naked barley and naked oats, where the husk naturally falls off the grain when theyre harvested.

Iron Age Britons knew a thing or two about how to get the most out of a Great British pulse. In an era when meat and dairy were more precious and protein had to be found from other sources, fava beans were once central to our diet. A precursor to the modern broad bean, they are still grown in abundance in this country but,rather than eating them, we mainly export them (around 200,000 tonnes, in fact, to Egypt alone).

Pulses like fava are high in protein, says Freer. Pulses tend to contain between 17-30 per cent protein (dry weight), and contain the essential amino acid lysine (which is relatively low in grains), so including pulses in a plant-based diet can be important to ensure all essential protein requirements are met.

They also contain antioxidant compounds, which contribute to our immune system, as well as resistant starch which is important for gut health.

Broadening your diet, and swapping new pulses and grains such as fava beans into your dishes, is an easy way to ensure youre getting a good range of micronutrients, which is vital for good health and protection from disease, she adds. Try using them to make falafel, use split fava beans in place of lentils for a dhal, or add them to casseroles as you would a bean or a chickpea.

There is an environmental upshot to all this too, says Saltmarsh. The more pulses we can get into British farming rotations the better that is for the soil and local environment.

Homedods was founded in 2012 following a project which examined what a sustainable and resilient diet would look like if it was supplied mainly from the agricultural hinterland of Norwich. One of the key things we identified was the huge benefits to be had from getting more vegetable proteins into our diet in place of animal protein, says Saltmarsh.

We then realised that most of the vegetable protein sources available on the British market are imported. Baked beans, which is the way the British consume most of the pulses in our diet, are from imported pulses.

And yet British farmers are growing pulses, particularly fava beans and a number of varieties of dried pea.

Unlike with meat, dairy or veg, freshness isnt so much of a concern, as most of this produce is sold dried or canned. But if you can buy local rather than imported produce, Saltmarsh says there may be a greater chance it will be grown to a higher standardand its more likely to arrive in your kitchen soon after harvest rather than after sitting in storage for a very long time, where its nutritional potential will start to diminish.

Continued here:
The Great British Diet: how eating pulses and grains can help you lose weight and live longer -

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