The Whole grain truth

“The U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment guarantees the right of free speech, therefore, any person can publish their own diet book. Regardless if they are qualified or not”

Let’s Talk About Carbs

You hear it everywhere; facebook, instagram, news channels, talk shows…”carbs (carbohydrates) cause weight gain”, “cut carbs out of your diet”, “go on a high protein diet”, etc.

The problem is, there’s a lot more to the story. Too much of even a good thing often has negative consequences.  Furthermore, before jumping on the “no-carb” or “low carb” diet plan, you must dig deeper rather than follow what the headlines say.

 The latest trend is the keto diet. This diet promotes almost eliminating carbohydrates entirely from your diet. What people fail to remember is that carbs are not made up of just bread, cookies, and cakes. Carbs are also in nutrient-dense fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. It’s not hard to imagine what negative effects will arise from replacing fruits and vegetables, with bacon and hamburgers.  

Carb Considerations

Where are your carbs coming from?

How many grams of carbs/day are you consuming?

Are you consuming simple vs complex carbs?

Are you living a sedentary lifestyle?

Do you have a genetic predisposition to insulin sensitivity?

The Whole Picture

For the purposes of this article, we are going to focus on whole grains. You may or may not know the difference between refined vs. whole grains, also sometimes known as, simple vs complex. So let’s have a quick review.

Whole grains are made up of three parts: the bran, gem, and endosperm.  The two most nutritious parts of a whole grain is the bran and germ. The bran, which is the outer layer, provides trace minerals, B vitamins, and fiber. The germ, is the nutrient dent core, providing vitamin E, B Vitamins, and antioxidants. The outer layer is the endosperm which contains primarily carbohydrates that supply the plant with energy.

Refined grains only use the endosperm. The refinement process strips the nutritious bran and germ leaving the starchy, carb-dense outer layer. Without the fiber and nutrients, refined grains digest fast and lead to spikes in blood insulin levels. The initial spike can cause feelings of increased energy however, these spikes are followed by a crash leaving you feeling tired, distracted, and/or irritable.

Whole Grain Examples

Brown Rice

Barley

Whole Oats

Quinoa

Buckwheat

Millet

Refined Grain Examples

Bagels

Most Pasta

Cakes

White Breads

White rice

Dinner Rolls

Whole Grains & Coronary Heart Disease

The British Medical Journal published a large study which combined over 40 published studies investigating the long term effects of whole grains.

Among a total of 316,491 participants, 7,068 cases of Coronary Heart Disease (CHD) occurred during the study. It was discovered as whole grain intake increased, there was a reduction in the risk of CHD. The reduction occurred when participants reached 7 servings of whole grains per day. In comparison between participants who consumed the ideal servings of whole grains vs non, there was a 20% reduction in the risk of developing CHD.

 

Whole Grains & Stroke

Among a total of 245,012 participants, 2,337 cases of strokes occurred during the study.  It was discovered a whole grain intake of 5 servings per day resulted in a reduction in the risk of having a stroke. In comparison between participants who consumed the ideal servings of whole grains vs non, there was a 14% reduction in stroke risk.

 

Whole Grains & Cardiovascular Disease

Among a total of 704,317 participants, 26,243 cases of cardiovascular disease (CVD) occurred during the study.  In comparison between participants who consumed the ideal servings of whole grains vs non, there was a 16% reduction in CVD related deaths.  The risk was reduced the greatest when comparing participants who consumed 1.5 servings per day to those who consumed 0 servings of whole grains per day.  

 

Whole Grains & Mortality

 

All-Cause Mortality

Among a total of 705, 253 participants, 100,726 all-cause deaths occurred. In comparison between participants who consumed the ideal servings of whole grains vs non, there was a 17% reduction in all-cause related deaths. 

Cancer Mortality

Among a total of 640,065 participants, 34,346 cancer related deaths occurred. In comparison between participants who consumed the ideal servings of whole grains vs non, there was an 11% reduction in cancer related deaths.

Diabetes Mortality

Among a total of 632,849 participants, 808 deaths related deaths occurred. In comparison between participants who consumed the ideal servings of whole grains vs non, there was a 36% reduction in diabetes related deaths.

 

In conclusion, there is overwhelming evidence supporting that the risk of death and disease is strongly linked to the intake of whole grains.

 

The study investigates the effect of whole grains on other aspects as well. Additional findings found that whole grain intake is also linked to a reduction in the risk of respiratory and infectious diseases.

Ideally, a person should consume between 6-8 servings of whole grain carbohydrate intake per day. In addition, one should attempt to reduce or eliminate the consumption of refined grains. Due to refined grains being more calorie dense and less nutritionally dense.

1 serving of whole grain is approx. 1 ounce.

Some examples would be:

1/2 cup cooked brown rice

1/2 cup cooked whole grain pasta

1 brown rice cake

1 slice of whole grain bread

References:
Aune, D., Keum, N., Giovannucci, E.,…Norat, T. (2016). Whole grain consumption and risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer, and all-cause and cause-specific mortality: systematic review and dose-response meta-analysis of prospective studies. BMJ, 353, doi.10.1136/bmj.i2716. 

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