Understanding the Challenges of Digesting Grains: Comprehensive Guide

Why Are Grains Hard To Digest: All You Need To Know  

Exploring the Challenges of Digesting Grains: A Comprehensive Overview

Why Are Grains Hard To Digest: All You Need To Know

In light of the repercussions of our sedentary lifestyles and declining health, attention has shifted significantly towards dietary choices. For many Indians, grains constitute a significant portion of their diet. But what exactly are grains? They are small, dry seeds from cereal plants, some with or without a fruit layer. Grains are not only cultivated for human consumption but also serve as a primary food source for animals worldwide, with wheat, rice, and corn (maize) being the most popular varieties.

Furthermore, grains are renowned for their long shelf life. Dry grains are notably more resilient post-harvest compared to other staples like starchy fruits (e.g., breadfruit, plantains) and tubers (e.g., cassava, sweet potatoes). Having established their durability and widespread consumption, it’s imperative to assess their nutritional value.


Grain crops generally fall into two categories: cereals and legumes. A whole grain comprises three primary components: bran, germ, and endosperm. The bran, the outer layer of the grain, is rich in fiber, minerals, and antioxidants. The germ, the nutrient-rich core responsible for the plant’s growth, contains carbohydrates, fats, proteins, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and various phytonutrients. The endosperm, mostly consisting of carbohydrates in the form of starch and protein, serves as the seed’s energy supply.

While some grains like oats are typically consumed in their whole form, others are commonly refined. Many grains are consumed in processed or finely ground flour form, including wheat. Understanding their production and consumption methods provides insight into their potential effects on the body.


What makes grains difficult to digest

  • Grains pose challenges to digestion due to the presence of two types of proteins: Gluten and Lectins. Gluten, found in barley, rye, and wheat, is often difficult for many to digest, leading to symptoms such as stomach cramps, bloating, and diarrhea. Additionally, other grains contain lectins, which can also be hard to digest.
  • Raw legumes, for instance, contain high levels of lectins, making them potentially harmful if consumed uncooked. Proper cooking destroys lectins, mitigating the risk of symptoms like nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and bloating associated with their consumption.

How can one consume grains to maximize their benefits

  • Let’s begin with a staple food item commonly found on Indian plates – chapatis. Instead of using refined flour, opt for whole grains like whole wheat, bajra, jowar, and ragi for healthier alternatives. Similarly, for those who enjoy idlis, consider using brown rice and ragi after boiling or steaming.
  • For breakfast cereals, choices such as oats, wheat flakes, whole wheat bread, quinoa, and corn flakes offer nutritious options. Whole wheat pitas, pizza bases, and bread made from rye or whole wheat are also good alternatives, but it’s essential to check labels for ingredients. Additionally, experimenting with whole wheat pasta can provide a blend of refined and whole wheat options.
  • For light snacking, consider popcorn made from whole wheat, but be mindful to avoid adding excessive salt, sugar, or fatty toppings for better health benefits.