Cereals and potatoes are important sources of complex carbohydrates and fiber in our diet. In particular, they have in common the presence of starch molecule, which constitutes a supply of prolonged energy for our organism over the time. Together, they form the group of foods from which we have to draw about half of our daily energy and they are therefore one of the pillars on which the Mediterranean diet is based.
Cereals and potatoes group includes pasta, bread and bakery products, rice, barley, corn, as well as other minor cereals and tubers such as sweet potatoes and topinambur. In our daily diet, these foods are the most important source of starch, carbohydrates and easily usable energy.
Let’s get to know the health benefits of potatoes and cereals.
What are cereals?
Cereals, in the form of pasta, bread, rusks and bakery products, are the main source of carbohydrates in our diet, but they also contain a good amount of vitamins B and a sufficient percentage of proteins. Many times, we eat refined cereals, that are depleted of minerals but above all of fiber, which is important for its many beneficial effects on the organism.
Cereals have been the basis of human nutrition for millennia, also thanks to their great versatility that has allowed obtaining a wide range of products processed according to the different eating habits and traditions in the world. The term “cereals” refers primarily to:
Is cereal healthy? Although different from each other, these cereals have important nutritional properties in common: as mentioned, they are in fact an excellent energy source, thanks to the high amount of carbohydrates, and a discreet source of protein, minerals, vitamins and fiber.
Wheat, cultivated since the antiquity, is one of the main food resources of man. From this, through milling, you get semolina and flour. Its fruit, which takes the name of caryopsis, consists mainly of starch (about 70%) and proteins (10-15%). In the caryopsis is not present already-made gluten, which is formed with the hydration of the semolina and flours during the obtaining of the different dough. This famous protein is present not only in wheat, but also in other cereals such as barley and rye and is responsible for celiac disease, a permanent intolerance to gluten that manifests itself with chronic inflammation of the small intestine.
Pasta is a product obtained from flour through refining processes. It is deprived of a part of fiber, so this food is less satiating than cereals consumed as such. Pasta also contains more carbohydrates and gluten. Starting a strict diet, you think you have to completely eliminate pasta… Pasta lovers, don’t give up! You must never eliminate carbohydrates from your diet. It will be enough to prefer the whole-wheat pasta, which has a greater satiating power than the pasta obtained by refining, because it contains more fibers.
Bread and bakery products are part of a very heterogeneous category of foods, but they have the same basic ingredients, which are generally: flour, water and leavening agent. Bread contains, for the same weight, fewer carbohydrates than pasta. Wholemeal bread is preferable for the reduced amount of glycemic carbohydrates. Finally, it is better to avoid bread if you eat pasta or rice, in order not to exceed the intake of carbohydrates and keep blood glucose levels under control.
Rice is native to Asia and has interesting nutritional properties. In addition to containing starch in abundance, it has decent levels of protein. These are present in smaller quantities than other cereals but have a high nutritional value, because they are rich in the essential lysine amino acid. Besides being extremely digestible, rice does not contain gluten and for this reason, it is also indicated in case of coeliac disease. It is also able to satiate much more than other foods, because during cooking its volume can even triple.
Some good habits about cereals
-Do not consume bread if you eat pasta or rice;
-prefer whole cereals (spelt, barley, millet, rice, etc.) to pasta or other bakery products, because they provide the right amount of carbohydrates and they are more tolerated by the intestine;
-prefer whole grains because they have a higher fiber content than refined ones, they satiate more, help intestinal motility and control the uptake of glucose and cholesterol.
Keep reading to know the health benefits of potatoes.
What are potatoes?
Often considered as “vegetables”, health benefits of potatoes are similar to those of cereals and their derivatives. Potatoes are tubers and, like cereals, they consist mainly of starch (a chain of glucose molecules, which are freed during digestion). Potato starch is digested and assimilated very quickly, especially in freshly cooked potatoes. When it becomes cold, starch begins a process that makes it less digestible and therefore, even if in a small part, less digestible. Potatoes are practically fat-free, but they absorb them easily from the seasonings.
Tubers are more or less elongated globose-looking vegetal structures. They are mostly underground but also aerial, depending on the enlarged part of the plant in which they form.
In addition to potatoes, less known is the topinambur, a tuber that contains water-soluble fibers, such as inulin, able to promote the control of glucose and cholesterol levels in the blood at the end of meals. This tuber is also useful when you want to lose weight: its high fiber content facilitates the feeling of satiety and, if you also drink a lot of water, reduces water retention and promotes intestinal motility. Moreover, topinambur does not contain gluten and for this reason, those who are celiac or sensitive to gluten can use it in the form of flour.
Some tips about potatoes
They should be stored in cool and dry places to take advantage of health benefits of potatoes and prevent them from sprouting. In the potatoes are present some toxic and antinutritional components: the glycoalcaloids (the most famous is the solanine). These substances are mainly found in the peel, but they are also produced in the buds and in the areas surrounding the sprouted part (easily detectable by the green color due to the presence of chlorophyll). They are also found in the black areas that form as a result of bumps and infections. All these parts should therefore be carefully and abundantly removed before eating the potatoes. Cooking does not completely suppress the presence of solanine, so if there is too much, it can remain a dangerous amount even after cooking.
How to take advantage of health benefits of potatoes and cereals
All these foods (such as bread, pasta, rice, bakery products, foods composed of flour, pizza, potatoes) containing starch, and therefore consistent doses of carbohydrates, are part of the broad group of glycemic carbohydrates. This group includes all foods that can have a clear influence on blood sugar levels, as well as sugar, honey and sugary drinks. On the contrary, non-glycemic carbohydrates, such as those contained in vegetables, do not lead to excessive increases in blood sugar. For this reason, it is essential to correctly choose the carbohydrates that are introduced in our diet, without eliminating them but controlling their doses.