The assertion that “whole grain foods are good for you” may seem reasonable and true, but the truth is that they’re not always as healthy as they seem. In fact, it is well-known to nutrition experts that eating whole grain foods actually causes a decrease in the body’s ability to burn fat. This not only increases the risk of heart disease but also of developing obesity, which is responsible for skyrocketing the nation’s health care costs.
Today, we all know that eating a diet that has whole grains is better for you than eating a diet that doesn’t. But do you know why? Whole grains are not only better for your health, but they also make you healthier. How? By giving you more energy. But is it true that whole grains make you healthier? The answer may surprise you.
Whole grain products, such as whole grain bread, crackers, cereals, pasta, and rice, have gotten a bad rap over the years. Whole grains, along with their processed counterparts, are often vilified as the enemy of a healthy diet, and the ultimate dietary trap. Yet, most of us are eating too little whole grains, and they are a critical component of a healthy diet.. Read more about keto grains allowed and let us know what you think.
You hear about it all the time: those nutrient-dense whole grain products that you must consume on a daily basis if you want to be thin and healthy – and what objectives don’t involve that?
Do whole grains live up to their status as a superfood? Let’s take a deeper look at the scientific data that supports the benefits claims. You may then determine if you need granola in your diet on a regular basis.
Disclaimer: The health advantages of whole grains are well-known in medical and nutritional circles, and scientific evidence backs them up. However, there is evidence to call these beneficial benefits into doubt. While studies indicates that whole grains outperform processed grains on a variety of health measures, there is no evidence that whole grains are superior than no grains. As a result, we suspect that its health advantages are universal, particularly because many of the potentially beneficial components found in whole grain products may also be found in other meals.
This document is an effort to summarize what is currently known. It is aimed for people who are concerned about their health and whole grain intake.
Any changes in your lifestyle should be discussed with your doctor. Disclaimer in its entirety
First and foremost, what is whole wheat flour?
Whole grain goods are technically the seeds of cereal herbs. The grains have a hard, inedible husk that encases the three edible components un their natural, full state:
- Fiber-rich bran
- Sprouts are high in B vitamins, minerals, lipids, and proteins, among other things.
- Endosperm: the grain’s primary component; mostly carbohydrate with little quantities of protein, vitamins, and minerals.
The entire grain has been removed of its inedible outer shell for nutritional reasons, but the three edible portions of the seed have been kept. Refined grains, such as white flour (including unbleached wheat flour) and white rice, on the other hand, are milled to remove the bran and germ, leaving just the endosperm.
The majority of whole grain products are processed in some way. whole wheat flour is crushed into flour, for example, while old-fashioned oats are boiled and rolled to make them more pleasant and digestible.
During the Palaeolithic, hunter-gatherers seem to have eaten wild grains in certain regions, especially in what is now known as southern Italy and Africa. More wheat, barley, rice, and other grains were produced during the agricultural revolution, and they formed part of the human diet in many other areas.
People have eaten various grains throughout the globe since then, based on their cultural preferences and availability. There are a few well-known and commonly eaten whole grain products among the dozens available:
- rice (brown)
- Whole wheat
- Rice that has been harvested from the wild
Whole wheat, oats, and brown rice are the most frequently eaten whole grain products in the United States, according to the Whole Grain Council.
Buyers should be cautious: The phrase “whole grain” has grown popular among health-conscious individuals in recent decades. Knowing this, producers often use bright and eye-catching statements like Contains 14 grams of whole grain cereals, whole grain pasta, granola bars, and other similar items, which can contain high quantities of added sugar.
According to a 2013 research of over 500 cereal items, whole grain cereals contain more sugar and are more costly than comparable products without the label.
a diet rich in whole grains
Are whole grain products really nutrient-dense energy sources? It depends on what they’re being compared to. Although certain cultivars have somewhat more protein and micronutrients than others, when it comes to carbohydrate and calorie content, they are not always nutrient-dense.
For example, 40 g (1/4 cup) of oats contains about 5 g of protein (although this protein is considered incomplete because it lacks some essential amino acids), 4 g of fiber (the daily recommendation is about 30 g), and 10-20% of the daily requirement of thiamin, iron, magnesium, biotin, selenium, and zinc. Even when prepared without milk, fruit, sweeteners, or other additions, it still has approximately 23 grams of net carbohydrates and 150 calories (compared to the recommended amount of net carbs, which is less than 20 grams per day for very low-carb diets and less than 50 grams for low-carb diets)
Consider making a sandwich with two pieces of whole wheat bread for lunch. For approximately 180 calories, 35 grams of net carbs, and 6 grams of fiber, it offers about 8 grams of (incomplete) protein, a fourth of the daily requirement of selenium, and modest quantities of thiamin, niacin, and magnesium.
Brown rice has a nutritional value similar to whole grain bread and oats, but it includes less protein and fiber.
Furthermore, grains such as quinoa and farro, which have lately become popular, are often commended for having greater protein and fiber content than rice or pasta. That may be true, but they also include a lot of pure carbohydrates, which means you’ll need to consume a lot of them (and carbs!) to satisfy your protein and micronutrient requirements. There are other methods to obtain the vitamins and minerals you need if you wish to adhere to a low-carb diet.
Whole grain cereals also include phytonutrients, which are plant-based chemicals that protect cells and decrease inflammation. Phytonutrients have been proposed as a possible explanation for some of the health advantages ascribed to whole grain products. More qualitative study is required to corroborate this, however.
Phytonutrients have a lot of mechanistic and epidemiological data to back them up, but we don’t have to consume whole grains to obtain them. These chemicals, for example, may be found in a variety of plant meals. B. Olives, nuts, and oils, to name a few. If you choose a low-carb diet, you don’t have to forego phytonutrients.
This leads us to the issue of the research on whole grains and health that is currently available.
Cereals research: generally, there isn’t much proof.
Whole grain research seems to receive a lot of attention in the media. A series of systematic reviews and meta-analyses investigating the impact of various kinds of carbs on human health, published in The Lancet in early 2019, is one such piece of study that has recently garnered worldwide news.
The researchers found that consuming more whole grain and fiber products may be an effective approach for avoiding obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and cancer, as well as lowering the risk of premature mortality, after reviewing 185 observational studies and 58 clinical trials.
When this research was first published, we reported about it, pointing out that it contrasted whole grain and highly refined grain diets. (We’ve also addressed the myth that low-carb diets must also be low-fiber diets.) And we speculated aloud about how the findings may have differed if the control group had had a low-carb, grain-free diet.
A low-carbohydrate diet is not synonymous with a low-fiber diet.
It’s worth noting that the majority of the data supporting whole grains’ health benefits comes from epidemiological or observational research. We should not depend on these research to make definite conclusions since the data cannot show a causal connection.
Discover the differences between observational and experimental research:
Observational and experimental research: a guide
We’ll go through the distinctions between observational and experimental research, as well as the benefits and drawbacks of each.
Whole grain cereals are marketed as a healthy product, and individuals who prioritize their health are more likely to choose and eat them. Avoiding only do these individuals eat whole grains, but they also practice a variety of healthy habits, such as not smoking, eating a variety of fruits and vegetables, and exercising. As a result, the association between whole grain intake and good health is an excellent illustration of a beneficial consumer bias.
Consider the Blue Zones, which are tiny areas of the globe where individuals live to be 100 years old at a significantly higher rate than the rest of the population. They’d consume a lot of full grain foods. However, we don’t know whether they are healthier because they consume whole grains or because they participate in a variety of other health-promoting activities, such as… B. frequent exercise, moderate alcohol use, avoidance of sugary beverages, and home preparation of fresh food on a regular basis.
Social desirability also limits observational research. This occurs when participants in a study behave in a particular manner in order to impress the researchers. Many individuals would say, “Of course, every day!” since whole grain cereals are promoted as being excellent for your health. even if they prefer white bread to the inquiry Do you consume wholemeal bread? This makes relying on self-reported healthy food intake more challenging.
How can we better understand the impacts of whole grains given the scarcity of nutritional epidemiology data? Let’s take a look at some additional qualitative data from RCTs to see how well they back up the notion that whole grains may enhance your health.
RCTs are studies that compare a treatment (e.g., eating more whole grains) to a control group (eating refined grains or a standard diet). We need to know what the whole grain products were compared against in these RCT trials using whole grain items. Did they compare whole grain intake to refined grain consumption? Or are you on a regular diet? Or, even better, on veggies that are low in carbohydrates? It makes a difference, as you’ll see.
Weight loss with whole grains
Many nutrition experts, notably the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, emphasize the need of eating enough of whole grain products as part of a balanced diet in order to maintain weight management. But how strong is the evidence for a connection between eating a lot of whole grains and losing weight?
A systematic analysis of a 2013 RCT – the strongest kind of evidence – showed that individuals who ate a whole grain-rich diet lost slightly more fat (less than 0.5 percent difference) but no change in overall weight loss when compared to those who ate refined grains. Eating whole grains did not result in weight reduction, according to a new systematic study published in 2019.
In other words, most RCTs indicate that whole grains have just a little impact on weight reduction. Other research, on the other hand, indicate that there are some benefits.
Several randomized controlled studies in normal-weight and overweight individuals found that those who fed whole grains for 4-16 weeks had a higher resting metabolic rate and a lower belly fat, insulin resistance, inflammation, and body weight than those who ingested refined grains.
People who ate whole rye products lost more weight than those who ate refined grains, according to one research. The same could not be said for whole wheat.
Summary: RCTs indicate that including whole grains into one’s diet has only a little impact on body weight. Replacing refined grains with whole grains, on the other hand, is likely to provide more advantages. As a result, in addition to the limited or no positive effects of whole grains themselves, some of the advantages of eating whole grains are likely to come from eating fewer processed grains.
Diabetes and whole grains
Is it true that eating whole grain products on a daily basis may help avoid type 2 diabetes and blood sugar spikes?
Observational studies have shown a link between whole grain intake and a reduced incidence of type 2 diabetes. We’ve previously addressed the limitations of this kind of research, as well as the fact that observational studies can’t prove that whole grains are healthy. So, how does this claim stand up when compared to more rigorous randomized controlled trials (RCTs)?
Whole grain dietary fiber was not substantially more successful than the control group in decreasing glucose levels or increasing insulin sensitivity in a randomized controlled study particularly intended to evaluate the impact of whole grain dietary fiber on the development of type 2 diabetes. There was no difference in the incidence of type 2 diabetes across the groups.
Other experimental investigations on the blood glucose response to whole grain cereals have shown conflicting findings. Whole grain cereals do not increase blood glucose and insulin levels as much as refined cereals after a meal, according to a systematic analysis of an RCT published in 2017.
However, a more recent analysis of randomized clinical studies showed that the glycemic response to whole wheat, processed wheat, or rye was virtually similar in non-diabetics. The rise in blood sugar after eating white rice, on the other hand, was considerably greater than after eating brown rice.
In overweight diabetics, there are currently few RCTs evaluating the glycaemic response to whole grains vs processed grains. Overall, they discovered that substituting whole grains for processed grains improves blood sugar and insulin control.
Is this a smart approach for improved diabetes management? It depends on the situation. Whole grains may likely be beneficial if you are substituting highly processed grains. But what does this have to do with implementing a grain-free diabetic diet?
Many randomized trials indicate that carbohydrate restriction improves glycemic control. This implies that grains have been excluded by definition. These results are supported by systematic reviews of RCTs. According to the American Diabetes Association (ADA), the most significant element in lowering blood glucose levels in individuals with diabetes is reducing total carbohydrate consumption. It may be utilized in a variety of diets, depending on the requirements and preferences of the person.
Whole grain cereals may increase blood sugar levels more than previously thought.
On the glycemic index (GI), a scale that measures how much a meal increases blood sugar levels, whole grain products score shockingly high.
The quantity of processed grains a person consumes has an impact on their GI. Even lightly processed oatmeal, on the other hand, has a GI of 55, whereas quick oatmeal has a GI of over 70. Cabbage and spinach, on the other hand, have an extremely low GI of 15 and 6, respectively, while meat, fish, cheese, and fats have a GI of zero.
As previously stated, the majority of experimental investigations have shown that whole grain products do not increase blood sugar levels as much as processed grains. But how does a grain-free diet affect blood sugar levels?
A paleo diet without grains was more successful than standard dietary guidelines in reducing blood glucose and insulin levels in individuals at risk of metabolic syndrome, according to a 2015 meta-analysis of an RCT.
Summary: Switching from refined to whole grains will almost certainly improve blood sugar management. However, even whole grain products increase blood sugar, so eliminating grains entirely will likely help you better manage your blood sugar.
Cereals made with whole grains and heart disease
Whole grain cereals are often regarded as heart-healthy meals.
Many epidemiological studies have shown that individuals who consume whole grain products have a reduced risk of heart disease. However, as previously said, this does not show that whole grain products enhance heart health directly, and given the data’s inherent flaws, it’s also conceivable that this is due to healthy user bias (healthy people preferentially eat whole grain products and therefore have other healthy habits that contribute to a lower risk of heart disease).
When whole grains are substituted with refined grains, however, higher quality experimental trials typically indicate an improvement in certain heart disease risk variables. Two RCT meta-analyses showed that whole grain groups had lower LDL cholesterol than refined grain groups, with oats being the most cholesterol-lowering food. Triglyceride levels did not alter much.
Reducing individual risk variables, on the other hand, does not always imply improved health, particularly if one indication improves while others deteriorate (e.g. LDL levels improve and insulin resistance worsens). That’s why, rather of using surrogate markers like LDL, we need experimental research on the things that truly matter: heart attacks, strokes, and fatalities. There hasn’t been a research like this yet.
In addition, the Cochrane Database found in 2017 that there was inadequate evidence to support the claim that whole grain products decrease the risk of CVD after a systematic assessment of nine RCTs. They arrived at this conclusion as a result of the studies’ general low quality, which included small sample numbers, short-term treatments, and a significant risk of bias (including funding from pro-grain organizations).
In 2020, a comprehensive review of 25 RCTs showed that, although studies suggest that whole grain cereals may lower certain cardiovascular risk factors, the evidence is of poor quality and unlikely to be clinically relevant. Furthermore, there is inadequate evidence to support the use of whole grains over processed grains in the prevention and treatment of cardiovascular disease.
This demonstrates how critical it is to comprehend how low-quality research has impacted support for the notion that whole grains are heart-healthy. These statements are shown to be untrue upon closer inspection.
At this time, the existing data suggests that eating whole grains rather than refined grains is a good idea, but the study does not show that eating whole grains reduces the risk of CVD.
Cereals made from whole grains and the risk of cancer
Whole grain products are often promoted as cancer-prevention foods by cancer organizations and other organisations. This is based mainly on observational studies that indicate individuals who eat the most whole grains had a reduced chance of getting some malignancies, especially colon cancer. However, the low risk ratio of the research, as well as the fact that numerous other epidemiological studies do not support similar findings, cast doubt on these conclusions.
One of the main issues with these research, as with other nutritional studies, is the correct estimate of food consumption. Although whole grain biomarkers have been studied, they have several disadvantages, including a short half-life. Because of the requirement to eat significant quantities of fiber, which is difficult to predict correctly, this is especially essential in the prevention of colon cancer.
Furthermore, there are no randomized controlled trials (RCTs) on the impact of whole grain intake on cancer risk. One explanation for this is the time it takes to observe the impact of a given intervention. The genesis and progression of cancer is a long-term process that necessitates following individuals for extended periods of time, which may be excessively costly and impracticable.
So we’re dealing with observational studies, some of which show a connection but many of which don’t, and none of which can prove a causal link. We don’t know if healthier individuals decided to eat more grain or whether consuming grain made them healthier, as we don’t know in previous observational studies of nutrition. In comparison to a diet high in refined and processed foods, we don’t know whether whole grain cereals are simply a replacement for excellent nutrients and fiber.
Summary: Consumption of whole grains, rather than refined grains and highly processed meals, may be linked to a reduced risk of cancer. However, there is presently no convincing evidence that whole grains alone protect against cancer owing to contradictory findings from low-quality observational research and a paucity of data from randomized clinical trials.
Cereals made from whole grains and other health advantages are distributed.
Whole grain cereals are also linked to a number of additional health benefits, including:
- Reduced inflammation : Many chronic illnesses, including heart disease, are thought to be caused by inflammation. Inflammatory indicators such as C-reactive protein (CRP) and interleukin-6 are reduced when whole grains are consumed instead of refined grains, according to two meta-analyses of randomized controlled studies (IL-6).
- Improved intestinal health: As a by-product of the fermentation of dietary fiber, bacteria in the colon generate short-chain fatty acids. According to the findings of a randomized controlled trial, consuming whole grains seems to boost the synthesis of these short-chain fatty acids, which may help to nourish the gut and improve insulin sensitivity.
While these studies seem to be compelling, it’s important to remember that they’re comparing whole grain cereals to highly refined grains, not a grain-free, low-carbohydrate diet. While the fiber level of whole grains may play a role in these health advantages, you can obtain a variety of fibers by eating nuts, seeds, avocados, low-carb fruits, and non-starchy vegetables as part of a low-carb diet.
“Research shows that people who eat whole grains actually live longer,” you say, “because whole grains are packed with vitamins and minerals that protect us from chronic diseases.” True—but can’t we benefit from whole grains without all the health problems that come with them?. Read more about benefits of whole grains and let us know what you think.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the best way to be able to tell if there really is whole grains in your food?
Whole grains are usually brown in color, while refined grains are white.
Are whole grains actually good for you?
Whole grains are good for you. They are a great source of fiber and nutrients that can help with digestion, weight loss, and overall health.
What is the strongest evidence that you should eat whole grains instead of refined grains?
The strongest evidence that you should eat whole grains instead of refined grains is the fact that they have a higher fiber content.
This article broadly covered the following related topics:
- what are whole grains
- benefits of whole grains
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- whole grains vs refined grains examples
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