Cereal grains have been a part of man’s diet since its very existence and are still the basis of the food chain of many peoples. It is only in developed countries that the consumption of cereals is more moderate. Its importance is so big that it continues to be the food product, comparing to any other type, with the greatest amount of production in the world.
There are more than 6,000 species of cereal grains, but wheat, rice, corn, soybeans, and barley were responsible for about 55% of the area devoted to cereal cultivation on the planet in 2014. In terms of quantities produced, corn, rice, and wheat respectively occupy the world cereal production podium.
However, due to the high world demand for cereals, many producers have been betting on genetically modified seeds (since the 1960s and 1970s) to increase crop yields. An innovation that produces between 30% and 85% more than traditional seeds, but there can also be a great harm to the environment and especially to the consumer, such as the alteration of properties, like the gluten, among many others.
In Portugal, the area planted with transgenic maize was in 2011, about 5.6% of the total cultivated area (read more about transgenics).
All cereals are great sources of nutrients: carbohydrates, vitamins, fiber, and various minerals, and have low levels of fat. When you are consuming cereals you are protecting your heart, the digestive system, the nervous system, helping to control diabetes, cholesterol, obesity or avoid certain degenerative diseases, among other negative stresses. All these benefits exist in cereals, but most of the time these are consumed in their refined form, which obliterates many of the essential nutrients to our body.
Eating whole-grains, made from natural seeds, is more beneficial because it contains more nutrients – fibers and minerals such as selenium, potassium, magnesium, among others that are lost in grinding and refining.
But what is a whole-grain cereal?
It is the one in which the grain is complete, that is, composed of the three layers that make it up: the bran (also called the bark), the endosperm (intermediate layer) and the germ (the seed).
The bran is very rich in fiber, vitamin B, protein and minerals, the endosperm provides carbohydrates and energy to the body and the germ, in turn, has a high amount of minerals, vitamins, and antioxidants.
It is true that refined cereal is usually cheaper than whole-grain, but our body will appreciate the financial effort.
The team of specialists at the Harvard School of Public Health has already shown in several studies that for every 28 grams of whole grains we consume daily, the mortality rate is reduced by 5% and the risk of mortality related to the risk of cardiovascular stress is reduced by 9%.
A quick lookup to specialty websites and blogs (see for example www.sapo.pt, www.saudecuidada.com, www.eufic.org, or www.vegetarianismoveganismo.wordpress.com), it is possible to confirm many of the benefits of cereals consumption.
This text is an awareness. According to the season of the year and the moment in which you are, it is up to each one to feel if they should consume this food. The dosage and frequency depend on the nature and physical condition of each Human Being.