Whole grain foods have a higher nutritional value and a lower glycemic index. Unlike refined grains, which have been stripped off their bran and germ and rendered into pretty much pure carbs – plain sugars, which supply energy, but little else – whole grains retain many essential nutrients such as vitamins, minerals, fiber, polyphenols and ‘good’ fats. They’re the type of foods that healthy diets are made of.
Studies that looked at people and populations that eat whole grains have shown them to have lower risk of lifestyle related diseases and afflictions, such as type 2 diabetes, obesity and heart disease.
This association has been shown again and again. Fewer are the studies that actually demonstrated what whole grains could do by examining their effect in an experiment.
In a new randomized controlled study, published in the journal GUT, whole grains are put to a detailed test.
In the study, 50 people alternated between 8 weeks eating whole grains, and another 8 weeks on refined grains. Each participant was basically his own control. They could eat as much as they wanted of the assigned grain product in each condition.
Losing weight and reducing inflammation
On a whole-grain diet the participants lost weight. They lost weight because they ate fewer calories – without trying. Whole grains must have led to greater satiety.
Another significant finding was that inflammatory markers, such as C Reactive Protein (CRP), and pro-inflammatory cytokines IL-6 and IL1β were reduced. And while it’s expected that inflammation would decrease with weight loss, the reduction in inflammatory markers was significant even after adjusting for weight loss.
Benefits noticed after just 8 weeks
The researchers hypothesized that some of the benefits from whole grains would be attributed to changes in gut bacteria population – microbiome fluctuations. That’s not what they found in the 8 weeks of this study; other studies have shown that the gut population changes when one changes the type of grain one eats. Nevertheless, eating whole grains led to fewer calories consumed, weight loss and less inflammation, and the effects were seen in less than 2 months!
And eating more whole grain isn’t hard, nor is it painful.
Tips for enjoying more whole grains
- Cook whole grains:
The supermarket shelves and especially the bulk section have a wide selection of whole grains that are delicious, nutritious, and inexpensive. Opt for brown rice, oatmeal (oatmeal is always whole grain), quinoa and wheat berries; they’re all 100 percent whole grain!
- Replace refined-grain with whole-grain products:
While some pastries don’t lend themselves to whole-grainifying (croissants, for one, in my opinion) other prepared whole-wheat versions are awesome. There are wonderful whole wheat breads, pastas and other baked goods on shelves.