Flour Power Your Way to Parkinson's Protection
Last updated: June 2021
Whole grains have a reputation for being good for the heart, but did you know that they can also fuel a healthy brain?
Whole grains are a form of healthy carbohydrates — the primary energy source for your brain. They also contain vital nutrients essential for cognitive function, such as zinc and B vitamins.1,2
Benefits for the brain
High intake of vegetables, fruit, whole grains, nuts, dairy, and fish, along with low intake of sugar-containing beverages, are associated with a healthier and larger brain as we age.3,4
As if there weren’t enough reasons to love the Parkinson's disease (PD) recommended Mediterranean - type diet, which is naturally rich in whole grains. The Mediterranean diet is also associated with decreased incidence and prevalence of depression — a concern with PD.5
Whole grain basics
Whole grains are naturally packed with fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Look for a package that includes the word "whole" or has a whole grain claim when purchasing wheat, sorghum, teff, or buckwheat.
It helps differentiate items with health-promoting bran, germ, and endosperm, which provides fiber, phytonutrients, vitamins, and minerals.
But some flours are whole grains, despite not having the “whole” in the name. Confusing right? These include oats (like oatmeal), brown rice, stoneground, and wheat berries.
By choosing 100 percent whole grain when possible, you're powering for Parkinson’s disease protection! If it says enriched flour, de-germinated, or is just the bran or wheat germ, it's not the whole deal.
Gut-brain health with Parkinson's
Whole grains are filled with fiber that has purposes beyond simply keeping you regular. New research shows that whole grains may help create a diverse gut microbiome.6 The gut microbiome is a collection of organisms that live in your intestines and, to put it frankly, in your poop.
In fact, much of our fecal matter is bacteria — aka living organisms. Many of which play an essential role in our general health, immunity, and brain function. By enjoying a variety of whole grains, you'll reap the benefits of various nutrients that help create a diversified colony of good bacteria!
Expand your repertoire beyond whole wheat and oats to include an array of different whole grains. Experiment with various options to possibly find a new favorite. Your mind and body will thank you!
Rich in antioxidants
Savor the sorghum
More like sorg-yum! This whole grain flour has a mild earthy flavor that will satisfy your tastebuds, especially when it shares the spotlight with whole oats or oat flour. I love to substitute about a 1/2 cup of sorghum for every 1 and 1/2 cup of oats or oat flour.
Plus, this protein-packed, naturally gluten-free flour mimics the familiar effects of whole wheat. Sorghum bakes with a similar structure and browning effect that is adored in traditional wheat goods. My personal favorite is to incorporate it into whole-grain cookies and bars.
In addition to its yummy taste, sorghum is abundant in phenolic compounds — a type of phytonutrient important for PD and neurodegenerative diseases.7 In fact, it has a greater phenolic content than most whole grains.
Phenolic compounds also help prevent chronic disease and promote gut health.8 Talk about a mighty nutrient! Plus, sorghum gives mother nature a helping hand by requiring less water than most grains.9 It’s good for the brain, the body, AND the environment.
Marvel at millet
Millet takes me back to childhood memories of my mother’s mock mash potatoes (it’s tastier than it sounds!) This gluten-free grain has a mild flavor, allowing it to serve as a canvas for your culinary creations. Incorporate it into homemade bread or cookies for a unique yet tasty crunch.
Plus, millet contains prebiotics. Remember that microbiome mentioned earlier? Well, prebiotics help feed our gut microbes.10 Fun fact: millet is also drought and pesticide-resistant grain, decreasing your exposure to toxins.
This tasty whole grain also has phenolic compounds like sorghum, so try adding it to your diet for an antioxidant boost!10
Barley is bursting with antioxidant phenolic compounds and contains cholesterol-lowering properties, earning its spot as a whole grain worth having!11,12 Enjoy it in soups, salads, or as a pilaf and hearty risotto. This drool-worthy grain pairs nicely with mushroom, lentils, or savory skillet dishes.
All around the world, experts recommend choosing whole grains for their health benefits! Don’t be robbed of these benefits! Go on a whole grain adventure and discover which options you prefer. With so many to choose from, and countless ways to prepare them, you'll never run out of ideas.
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