Quick: What is “bran”?
I bet you said a type of breakfast cereal, like raisin bran or bran flakes. That’s what I would have said up until a few days ago. Actually bran is the outer skin of the grain – i.e. a grain of wheat, a grain of rice, grain of corn, or grain of oat. Grain, by the way, is synonymous with “seed”.
And the bran of the seed is something you should be eating. In most grain-based foods, the bran along with the “germ” (the seed’s embryo) is stripped away during the processing, leaving only the endosperm or the seed’s food supply. But when you strip away the bran and the germ, you’re stripping away a lot of the nutrients. Click here for details.
No, stripping away the bran and the germ isn’t some evil plot carried out by the multinational corporations. It’s something that the multinational corporations, along with the mom-and-pop shops before them, do and did because that’s what people have always wanted. After all, wouldn’t you prefer French toast made with white bread rather than whole wheat bread?
Sometimes richer isn’t always better. In the Orient, brown rice has been associated with poverty; it’s simpler to process. The middle and upper classes generally consume white rice because they prefer the taste and texture thereof. But they’ve been depriving themselves of the beneficial health effects of brown rice, which contains the bran and the germ. A similar situation has held true in the West. In days of old, grist mills refined grains down to flour consisting of just the endosperm because that’s what people wanted. It was a more expensive process, so mainly just the middle and upper-income classes could afford it. Ironically that often resulted in worse health among the upper classes. Captains of ships would come down with health conditions that the sailors avoided, because the sailors were eating foods made from the less-expensive whole grain flour.
Whole grain is just that – all of the grain: the bran, germ and endosperm. Ironically, because our food processing infrastructure is tailored toward non-whole-grain foods, whole grains today are usually (but certainly not always) more expensive.
Whole-grain foods include brown rice, oatmeal, breakfast cereals containing the word “bran” in their names, buckwheat pancakes, and other foods with “whole grain” or “whole wheat” written on their labels.
So avoid the fate of the middle and upper class people of the Orient, and don’t deprive yourself of whole grain foods.