Wholegrain or no grain?

BX found in rye grains and other wholegrains.

We have a dilemma. On the one hand science tells us that wholegrains are good for us and particularly for gut health, on the other pseudoscience says that grains were not part of our ancestors diet and should be avoided. Too high amounts of ingested carbohydrates through grains, not just simple sugars so goes the story, are fattening but fat is not. I like my rye bread but happily without butter so what is a simple mind to do?

Enter benzoxazinoids

Well, new scientific findings come to the rescue in the form of benzoxazinoids, or BX for short, found in rye bread and other wholegrain foods. A new name to memorise for a magic natural compound. When it is a matter of health, you can now stick to wholegrain with the BX factor, a group of bioactive health-promoting substances. In Denmark, rye bread is a staple food and most people are aware that rye bread is healthy, but not many know that what makes bread a healthy food is not only vitamins, minerals, protein and fibre but also benzoxazinoids.

Appropriately, the presence of BX in wholegrain was discovered by scientists from Aarhus University in 2010. Certain medicinal plants and young cereal plants have previously been found to contain BX, but it was a revelation that they could also be found in ripened rye and other wholegrains as well as in the final baked bread and other bakery products ready for consumption. Even better, scientists have found that the BX compounds pass through the gut wall and circulate in the body in different chemical forms.

And the benefits

Have a rye-bread sandwich and feel good about it (Photo: Mogens Engelund).

Have a rye-bread sandwich and feel good about it (Photo: Mogens Engelund).

So the scientists wanted to know more. They examined whether BX could have an effect against allergies or whether they regulate the immune system. This part of the study was done by examining blood cells in the laboratory. There was no apparent anti-allergic effect, but there was an effect on the immune system. Eating a diet rich in BX compounds made certain immune system cells react more strongly to some types of bacteria. Previous studies have reported antimicrobial, anticancer, reproductive system stimulatory, central nervous system stimulatory, immunoregulatory, and appetite- and weight-reducing effects of BX or BX derivatives. The health benefits of wholegrain intake may be associated with the solitary or overlapping biological effects of fibers, lignans, phenolic acids, alkylresorcinols, BXs, and other bioactive compounds. All good anyway.

With the new findings in mind, the scientists speculated that it might be possible to grow crops with an optimum content and composition of these health-promoting compounds, so that consumers can increase their BX intake without having to eat large quantities of food.

You can now have a rye-bread sandwich to lunch and feel good about it. Forget about the paleo zealots.

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