Choosing Whole Grains For Weight Loss And Glucose Control

For anyone hoping to gain better glucose control by losing some weight, it may help to consume grains that are 100 percent whole.

The nutrition benefits of whole grains are widely known, and now a study out of Tufts University indicates whole grains can rev up our metabolism, and decrease the calories our body absorbs.

One group of study participants, aged 40 to 65, was provided a diet that included whole grains, such as brown rice, oatmeal, and whole wheat flour. They lost extra calories and increased their resting metabolic rate when compared to the group given an identical diet, but with refined grains such as white bread, white flour, and white rice.

The study data suggests that if we want to lose 15 pounds over 12 months, eating whole grains instead of refined could translate into dropping five of those pounds. The nutrient value of whole grains also supports overall well being, and the fiber content slows the absorption of glucose into our bloodstream.

What’s So Great About Whole Grains?

A grain is considered whole when the seed, or kernel maintains its three edible parts - the bran, germ, and endosperm - in the same proportions as when the grain grows in a field:

  • The bran is an outer layer over the kernel that contains a trove of B vitamins, antioxidants, and fiber.
  • The germ is the grain’s embryo, having the potential to sprout a new plant. It’s rich with B vitamins, minerals, healthy fats, and some protein.
  • The endosperm is a food supply for the germ, providing energy for young plants to root down for food and water, and to sprout toward the sun’s light. The endosperm is the largest part of the kernel, and contains starchy carbohydrates, proteins, and traces of vitamins, and minerals.

It’s the combined nutrient value of the three parts - bran, germ, and endosperm - that make whole grains great for short, and longterm health.

What’s Lost In Refining?

The term “refined grain” indicates the grain is missing one or more of its three edible parts; typically the bran and germ are removed. Unfortunately, this means one half to two-thirds of the grain’s nutrient value, including a fourth of its protein, is lost.

Refined wheat flour, for instance, has only 8 percent of the vitamin E, 16 percent of the magnesium, and 29 percent of the potassium found in 100 percent whole wheat flour—and these nutrients are vital for cardiovascular health. The refined flour has only a quarter of the fiber as well, and adequate fiber is essential for good blood sugar control.

Because nutritional value is diminished by refining, many refined products have up to a half dozen of the missing nutrients added back in. These products are called “enriched,” but the enrichment is a poor substitute for the full complement of vitamins, minerals, fats, proteins, and antioxidants found naturally in whole grains.

Healthy Consequences

The Tufts University research is one of numerous studies highlighting the benefits of eating more whole grains. We may still want white flour for our favorite cookie recipe, but eating whole grains most of the time is a lifestyle choice with healthy consequences.

Source: AARP; Whole Grains Council
Photo credit: Brad Higham

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