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Whole Grains are Still Whole When Ground!

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Whole grains are one of the earliest food sources for humans and provide excellent health benefits for weight loss programs. All whole grains are also cereal grains and are consumed in entirety. This means that the germ, endosperm and bran are included in the whole grain product. This is very different than refined grain products such as white flour which contains only the endosperm. The endosperm of the grain is the highest carbohydrate portion that also provides the lowest protein and fiber.

Whole grains can be consumed as the actual grain or they can be ground to produce whole grain flours and products. In most food items whole grain flours can be substituted with some minor alternations of the recipes to create whole grain foods that are much more diet friendly. The added fiber, iron, minerals and B vitamins in the whole grain flour add nutritional value and also lowers the glycemic index of the particular food. The glycemic index (GI) is calculated by comparing the fiber to the carbohydrate content, so increased fiber means a lower GI number. 1

Servings Of Whole Grains

According to the USDA Dietary Guidelines for Americans the servings of whole grains should be a minimum of three to four ounces per day for adult men and women that exercise for less than 30 minutes per day. Activity level, gender and age will factor in to the number of whole grain servings per day. Men and women that are moderately to extremely active should have at least six to eight ounces of grains per day with the recommendation that at least half of these should be whole grains. Many people on diets or those that are eating for weight maintenance eat entirely whole grains and avoid processed and refined grains completely.

Whole Grains From Around The World

Many of the “new” types of whole grains are, in fact, some of the ancient grains from the Middle East and Mediterranean cultures. These grains are often cooked and served as salads, cold or warm side dishes or as the main ingredient in a vegetarian type of meal. The following are both common western types of whole grains as well as some of the ancient grains that are gradually becoming more popular as a high fiber, high nutrient food source:

  • Whole wheat
  • Buckwheat
  • Whole oats or steel cut oatmeal
  • Barley
  • Brown rice
  • Wild Rice
  • Farro
  • Spelt
  • Kamut
  • Quinoa
  • Millet
  • Amaranth
  • Triticale
  • Rye
  • Tef (also known as Teff, Taf and Khak Shir)

Whole Grains For Health And Weight Loss

Evidence on the addition of whole grains to the diet both in weight loss programs as well as for reduction of cancers, cardiovascular disease and diabetes, have been very positive. Studies tend to indicate that the antioxidant properties, the high levels of dietary fiber and the trace minerals all contribute to overall health. In addition whole grains also contain phenolic compounds and phytoestrogens which may contribute to hormonal balance within the human body, particularly for women. 2

Research into the relationship of whole grains and the development and control of Type ll diabetes and heart disease is also very promising. A study that included insulin sensitive obese and overweight adults found that fasting insulin rates were reduced by 10% and that this was sustained over time, helping to regulate blood glucose levels. Subjects in the study consumed 6 to 10 servings of whole grains a day including snacks, whole grain pastas, breakfast cereals and whole grain breads. Some refined grains were also allowed in the daily diet with the ratio of 55% carbohydrates to 30% fat carefully controlled. 3

Other studies have demonstrated that adding whole grains to the diet, including some refined grains and cereal fiber, can help decrease weight, body mass index, waist circumference, as well as cholesterol levels in women.4  This is very good news for those trying to lose weight since whole grains are simple to add to the diet. They can also easily be substituted in for other starchy items on the plate including potatoes, white flour pasta and white breads.

The increased fiber of whole grains is well documented as it relates to increased health and weight loss. High fiber intake slows down digestion, helping the body to regulate blood glucose levels. Fiber is also a filler and works to help stay satiated longer after a meal which ultimately decreases snacking and overeating. Whole grains can be enjoyed with a meal or as a snack between meals without any concern for spiking blood glucose or adding empty calories.

Ideas For Whole Grains In The Diet

Simple ways to add whole grains to the diet include whole grain breads, muffins and pasta that can be substituted for refined flour or white flour items. Whole grains can also be added to salads to add texture as well as toppings on fruit. Crackers made of whole grain can be enjoyed with low fat cheese as a healthy snack or appetizer.

Most Americans over the age of 20 eat less than 1 serving of whole grain products per day yet consume on average 5.7 servings of refined grain products. 6 Making just a few changes in choices of whole grains over refined grains will impact on healthy weight loss programs as well as decreasing the risk for cardiovascular disease, Type 2 diabetes and some forms of cancer.

References

1 Healing Foods Pyramid: Grains. (n.d.). Retrieved from University of Michigan Health System: www.med.umich.edu/umim/food-pyramid/grains.htm

2 Pereira, M. A., Jacobs, D. R., et al. (2002). Effect of whole grains on insulin sensitivity in overweight hyperinsulinemic adults. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition , 848-855.

3 Newby, P., Maras, J., et al. (2007). Intake of whole grains, refined grains, and cereal fiber measured with 7-d diet records and associations with risk factors for chronic disease. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition , 1745-1753.

4 Cleveland, L. E., Moshfegh, A. J., et al (2000). Dietary Intake of Whole Grains. Journal of The American College Of Nutrition , 3315-3385.

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