Almost daily, you’ll likely overhear a conversation at the grocery store or friendly gathering about giving up carbs. It seems that the whole world is obsessed with losing weight and breaking the bread habit is touted most often. While I agree that reducing refined processed grains like doughnuts, cake and cookies will help with weight loss, blood sugar and lipid management, I do take issue with taking grains out of our diets completely, especially whole grains. The third part of our series to help support the My Plate Simple Campaign will focus on grains, in particular, whole grains. 1
If weight loss is a primary concern, whole grains should be encouraged. In a small Danish study of 60 overweight adults at risk of metabolic syndrome, researchers compared refined grain intake with whole grain intake. After 8 weeks, participants eating whole grains reduced their weight as well as markers of inflammation including C-reactive protein. 2 Studies also indicate that substituting whole grains for refined grains improves insulin sensitivity and reduces the risk of type 2 diabetes. 3
Beyond weight loss and diabetes reduction, there’s plenty of reasons to include whole grains in your diet. For starters, grains are high in antioxidants, which many people don’t realize. Quinoa, an ancient grain originating from Peru is considered a “pseudocereal grain” because of its high protein content. In addition to protein, quinoa contains powerful phytochemicals such as phenolics and betacyanins which have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Quinoa is also a source of tocopherols, fatty acids and carotenoids which help reduce oxidative stress and lower the risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes and obesity. Amaranth seeds share similar properties. These grains can be used as side dishes or cooked and cooled for grain bowls or salads. Bonus- both grains are gluten-free and therefore, Celiac-friendly. 4
So maybe quinoa and amaranth are beyond your client’s comfort level. Here’s some other good research to chew on. Fiber from cereal grains (oats, bran cereal, shredded wheat) should be encouraged. A recent systematic review from Frontiers of Nutrition found that fiber from wheat bran positively impacts our gut microbiota which may impact immunity, type 2 diabetes, risk for obesity and psychological well-being. Fiber in our diets provides fermentable carbohydrates which impacts the abundance of microbiota, biodiversity, short chain fatty acid production and metabolism. Researchers note that merely 6-8 grams per day can impact our gut microbiome. 5 The US Dietary Guidelines advise 25 grams of fiber/day for women and 38 grams per day for men. 6
How can you encourage your clients to embrace grains in a carb-hating world? For starters, quote some hard facts and remind them that whole grains are one of the best sources of dietary fiber and phytochemicals. In addition, give them new ways to eat them such as breakfast quinoa with vanilla and cinnamon or rye toast with egg and avocado. Make big batches of steel cut oats, brown rice or quinoa and reheat them as needed or use them cold in overnight oats or grain bowls, respectively. Use whole grain crackers with light string cheese for a grab and go breakfast or snack. Substitute whole grain pasta for refined pasta. Use shredded wheat in yogurt or a trail mix. There is such a great variety of grains to choose from and so many reasons to keep them in our diet.
2. Roager HM#1, Vogt JK#2, Kristensen M3, Hansen LBS2, Ibrügger S3, Mærkedahl RB3,4, Bahl MI1, Lind MV3,5, Nielsen RL2, Frøkiær H4, Gøbel RJ6, Landberg R5, Ross AB5, Brix S7, Holck J8, Meyer AS8, Sparholt MH9, Christensen AF9, Carvalho V1, Hartmann B6, Holst JJ6,10, Rumessen JJ11, Linneberg A12,13,14, Sicheritz-Pontén T2, Dalgaard MD7, Blennow A15, Frandsen HL1, Villas-Bôas S16, Kristiansen K17, Vestergaard H6,18, Hansen T6, Ekstrøm CT19, Ritz C3, Nielsen HB2,20, Pedersen OB6, Gupta R2, Lauritzen L3, Licht TR1. Whole grain-rich diet reduces body weight and systemic low-grade inflammation without inducing major changes of the gut microbiome: a randomised cross-over trial. Gut. 2019 Jan;68(1):83-93.
- Tang Y1,2, Tsao R2.Phytochemicals in quinoa and amaranth grainsand their antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and potential health beneficial effects: a review. Mol Nutr Food Res. 2017 Jul;61(7).
- Jefferson A1, Adolphus K2. The Effects of Intact Cereal Grain Fibers, Including Wheat Bran on the Gut Microbiota Composition of Healthy Adults: A Systematic Review. Front Nutr.2019 Mar 29;6:33
Submitted by Lisa Andrews, MEd, RD, LD