One of the things I like about writing blog posts on the WGC’s blog is sharing little bits of myself with all of you.  By now, you know I eat oatmeal for breakfast at the office every day, am relatively lazy when it comes to putting together lunch, and like snacking and watching football even when my team isn’t playing.  Is it coincidence that all these things involve eating, and all this eating involves whole grains?  I think not.

Today I wanted to start a new series of monthly blogs on whole grains in my life, which I’m calling Me & My Whole Grains.  Once a month for the rest of the year, I’m going to share the changes I’ve seen in my life that are directly related to whole grains.  I hope this will inspire some of you to greater whole grain heights, and maybe you’ll even share some of your similar whole grain experiences in the comments section.

In this month’s edition, I’m going to talk about the biggest change I’ve seen in my health since incorporating more whole grains into my diet: my nails are stronger, less brittle, and able to grow longer before chipping or breaking than ever before.  It’s probably not what you were expecting, maybe not what you were hoping to read.  After all, not one of the 40+ studies proving whole grains are better for your health mention stronger fingernails.  Compared to a lower risk of heart disease or type 2 diabetes, fingernails just aren’t that important.  But it’s true, my nails really are stronger, and I must say I find the change highly impressive.

Before I joined the WGC in 2007, I was just like most of America – meaning that I probably ate less than one serving of whole grains per day.  Yes, I was still eating oatmeal for breakfast, but that was pretty much it in terms of daily intake.  I might buy a loaf of whole wheat bread now and then, and I ate popcorn at the movie theater if I was craving something salty, but I honestly didn’t think much about whole grains despite my somewhat crunchy childhood (translation – I was raised by hippies).  As for my fingernails, they were truly unhealthy.  They were constantly flaking and chipping, they bent more easily than cooked spaghetti, and worst of all, when they broke they often did so below the flesh line.  Ouch!  

When I became part of the WGC, I realized one of the biggest changes I needed to make in my life was to practice what I preached.  How could I possible tell people that whole grains are easy and delicious if I wasn’t eating more of them?  How could I extol the benefits of the Whole Grain Stamp if I wasn’t looking for it on products myself?  I couldn’t, and more to the point, I didn’t want to.  So I changed my eating habits, paid more attention to ingredients, looked for whole grains at restaurants, and made sure to incorporate whole grains into my cooking as often as possible.

I can’t pinpoint exactly when I first noticed the difference other than it was some time last year, but I can tell you what I was doing when I noticed it – opening the battery housing on my MP3 player with my thumbnail.  When I realized what I’d done, I was so shocked I stopped dead in my tracks.  Nothing broke!  Nothing bent!  My nail neither flaked nor chipped.  To top it off, the fact that I used my thumbnail as a tool without thinking about it meant I’d been doing similar things for quite some time.

I know healthier nails may seem small and insignificant, but nail health really can provide a window into your overall health.  Healthy nails reflect a healthy diet, and if you don’t eat well, no lotions or lacquers can cover that up.  I’ve read that eating more protein-rich foods can help to develop stronger nails, and I point to amaranth and quinoa as high protein whole grains.  In fact, the protein in quinoa is complete protein, which means that it contains all the essential amino acids our bodies can’t make on their own. I’ve also read that diets rice in vitamins A and E can make your nails stronger, and Kamut® grain has more Vitamin E than common wheat varieties.  Not to mention that, by consuming more products made with whole wheat versus refined, I was providing my body with the perfect balance of nutrients in my grains, just as Mother Nature intended.  Of course I also eat plenty of fruits and vegetables and lean protein, but for whatever reason, increasing my whole grain intake was the key aspect of nail health I’d been missing all along.

Suffices to say I have no idea if these results are typical or not.  I’d love to know if any of you out there have been similarly surprised with stronger, healthier nails after replacing refined grains with whole.  Or maybe you noticed something else improved health-wise after you started eating more whole grains?  Let us know – we’d love to hear from you!  (Kara)

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