Popcorn & Cereal As Good As Veggies for Improving Health!
Posted Sep 08 2009 10:45pm
New research shows that certain cereals and many snack foods may offer as much nutrient protection against disease as fruits and veggies. Here's what you need to know!
By Colette Bouchez
If you'd like to give an antioxidant boost to your health , but just can't seem to get enough fruits and veggies into your diet, try tossing down a few handfuls of popcorn or some Cheerios – or any whole grain cereal or snack cracker.
The reason? A brand new study shows these foods contain as much or more of the antioxidant protection we get from fruits and veggies!
“We found that, in fact, whole grain products have comparable antioxidants per gram to fruits and vegetables,” said lead researcher Joe Vinson, a chemist at the University of Scranton in Pennsylvania, where the research was conducted. Vinson presented his findings at recent meeting of the American Chemical Society.
Indeed, researchers have long known that foods like whole grain cereals and crackers, and even popcorn appeared to have positive health effects – but the general belief was that benefits were linked to their high fiber content. And while that fiber content is still important, the new research adds yet another dimension to their health benefits : Many of these foods contain high levels of polyphenols, the same natural chemical now believed to protect against a variety of diseases, including heart disease and some forms of cancer.
“Early researchers thought the fiber was the active ingredient for these benefits in whole grains, but recently, polyphenols emerged as potentially more important,” Vison recently told NutraIngredients-USA.
The grains that ranked highest in polyphenol content were oats, followed by corn in second place, and wheat placing third on the list. How Whole Grains Protect You Polyphenols are a group of compounds that fall under the heading of “antioxidants”. These are molecules that help protect the body from cell damage.
That damage occurs in a variety of ways - including exposure to cigarette smoke, air pollution, the damaging rays of the sun , or even via various forms of inflammation that result from a poor diet. If left unchecked, this damage eventually changes the DNA inside our cells - setting the stage for a variety of ailments to take hold, including cancer and heart disease.
But studies show you can do something about it. Indeed, by increasing your intake of foods rich in antioxidants – and particularly polyphenols - it's possible to counter some of that cell damage, or in some instances even prevent it from happening altogether.
While previous research indicated the best sources of polyphenols were red or purple fruits such as grapes, raspberries and strawberries, as well as walnuts, peanuts, green tea, red wine wine and chocolate, the new study shows you can now add whole grains to the list of foods that will protect you. The Healthiest Snack Foods In addition to testing the antioxidant content of the whole grains found in cereals and whole grain crackers the University of Scranton scientists also looked at the nutrient content of various snack foods – and again found some surprising results.
In general, snack foods made with whole grains had slightly lower levels of polyphenols than the whole grain cereals - but they still fared incredibly well. Moreover, one snack food seemed to “pop out” from the rest in terms of health benefits - and that was popcorn! It's antioxidant content was up to five times greater that of other whole grain snack foods even those made with corn.
In fact, when when compared to popcorn, all corn tortilla chips registered polyphenol levels ten times lower! Experts theorize the cooking and baking processes involved in preparing certain snack foods may reduce some of their nutrient value. By comparison, the cooking/baking process involved in making cereals and popcorn did not appear to reduce the nutrient protection of these foods. What This Means To You Certainly don't stop eating fruits and veggies! In addition to polyphenols they contain lots of other phytonutrients that, at least right now, we can't seem to get from whole grain products.
At the same time you may be able to multiply the benefits of the fruits and veggies you do eat by adding in at least one serving per day of a whole grain oat, corn or wheat cereal.
Replacing snack crackers with popcorn can also improve your nutrient profile, and if you must eat crackers, the more whole grains they contain, they healthier they will be!
Copyright by Colette Bouchez 2009 - All Rights Reserved. In addition to US Copyright, the text of this RedDressDiary article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License. All formatting and style elements of this page are not available under this license, and Colette Bouchez retains all rights in those elements.