Cereals or grains are loaded with B vitamins, which help your body convert food into energy. And unlike processed grain products that lack fibre, whole grains are more filling and have fewer calories.
Joshua Ssozi, a nutritionist at Makerere University, says besides delivering important nutrients and essential vitamins such as iron, B vitamins and zinc, cereal also provides proteins. Oats, millet, rye, sorghum are all good protein sources. Maize is a good source of dietary fibre and protein, while being very low in fat and sodium.
He says, “Proteins are present in every tissue of the cereal grain. The concentrated protein-rich areas are scutellum, embryo, and the aleurone layer and moderate amounts can be found in the endosperm, pericarp, and testa.”
The concentration of proteins becomes denser in the endosperm from the centre to the borderline. The cereal proteins are called gluten proteins. This gluten has extraordinary elasticity and mobile properties, mainly present in wheat grain, but also in some other types of cereal.
An unhealthy digestive system can be the cause of many health-related issues and prevent your body from absorbing adequate amounts of nutrients from the food you eat. Whole grains such as millet is very rich in fibre, which helps in healing gastrointestinal disorders.
“Regularly making millet a part of your diet will help maintain a healthy gut and prevent peptic ulcers and colon cancer. It can eliminate problems such as constipation, excess gas, bloating, and cramping,” Ssozi says.
This would also help improve nutrient retention by the body. Regular elimination of waste helps boost your kidney, liver, and immune system health, as those organ systems are closely related to the body’s metabolic activities.
Satisfy sugar cravings
According to Dr Paul Lutaakome, a nutritionist at Jinja Referral Hospital, eating whole grains is linked to a longer, healthier life. This is because the grains contain manganese, selenium vitamins B, magnesium, phosphorus and iron. “Their fibre content will help you feel full and reduce your sugar craving. Whole grains are high in complex carbohydrates and fiber that help fill us up and delay hunger. Also, some cereals contain whole grains, which put you at a lower risk of developing diabetes and heart disease,” he says.
Prevent nerve defects
Cereals can be a rich source of folic acid too. Folic acid has been proved to play a big role in cell growth and development, as well as tissue formation for a foetus and deficiency is likely to cause nerve defects in expectant mothers. It is, therefore, recommended that pregnant women eat more cereals.
Magnesium, contained in the cereals goes to our muscles. It also helps regulate muscle contractions including heart muscles and strengthens the bones. Iron helps get oxygen to our blood cells and muscle cells from the lungs, accounting for good energy levels.
• Whole grain breakfast cereals are ideal for a good vitamin and mineral intake, while enriched or fortified breakfast cereals are second best.
Note, however, that there are people that are intolerant to gluten, a protein contained in cereals. This protein is richly present in wheat, rye and barley.