Eating Whole Grains Helps Weight Loss & Health

There is no longer any question as to the health benefits of whole grains. There are over 1500 well controlled, important studies, proving without a doubt that consuming 3 or more portions of unrefined, whole grain products each day is an essential part of a healthy diet.

The key is choosing the right whole grains, not a slice or two of bread. Since the late 1990’s, scientific articles with titles such as “Whole Grains Prevent Hypertension”, “Whole Grains Prevent Diabetes”, and “Whole Grain Consumption and Risk of Coronary Artery Disease-The Nurses Health Study” have flooded medical literature and journals.

whole grains help weight loss

History of Whole Grain Foods

Drs. Stampfer and Willet from Harvard Medical school were the first to link whole grains to the prevention of heart disease in a study of 75,000 nurses that were followed for ten years. Here is a summary of what they found regarding the number of cardiovascular events when comparing different types of whole grain products.

We used a procedure developed by Jacobs et al (6) to classify foods as whole or refined grains. Specifically, whole-grain foods included dark bread, whole-grain breakfast cereal, popcorn, cooked oatmeal, wheat germ, brown rice, bran, and other grains (eg, bulgar, kasha, and couscous). Refined grain included sweet rolls, cake desserts, white bread, pasta, English muffins, muffins or biscuits, refined-grain breakfast cereal, white rice, pancakes or waffles, and pizza. …between the SFFQ and detailed diet records in a sample of the participants, correlation coefficients were 0.75 for cold breakfast cereal, 0.71 for white bread, and 0.77 for dark bread.

higher intakes of whole-grain foods were associated with lower risks of both fatal and nonfatal CHD in this large population of women. The inverse association was independent of known coronary risk factors and components of whole-grain foods currently believed to be beneficial. These findings support the notion that increasing intakes of whole grains may help reduce the incidence of CHD.

Note the marked difference between the “dark bread” and the rest of the products. The “dark bread” eaters had more heart disease! The proven health benefits of “whole grain” products do not apply to a slice of two of wheat or whole grain bread. Whole grain bread is still whole grain, but the proven benefits of whole grains do not apply to breads.

Whole Grain Bread is Different From Other Whole Grain Products

Stampler and Willit point out that these differences were not the vitamins or minerals, nor the fact that the white bread was refined. They suggest the physical properties of whole grain products, unlike that found in the breads, may retard digestion and absorption time from the stomach. Other authors attribute the difference to “particle size”. They refer to the fact that all of the breads, regardless of type, have similar glycemic indices. In contrast, there are large differences between the glycemic indices of refined vs. whole grain products such as brown rice, whole grain cereals and and bran.

whole grains vs. white grains

Are People Who Eat Whole Grains More Health Conscious?

Other studies suggest that women who eat whole grain products have a healthier lifestyle in terms of smoking, exercise, and weight control as compared to women who eat white bread. This is always a possible issue in every study. Researchers have yet to answer that question. The people that volunteer for diet studies might just be different than the average person.

Many more studies also fail to show that whole grain is any different than white bread in terms of cardiovascular or cancer complications. But what about weight loss?

Diets plans high in whole grains produce no more weight loss than any other diet. All recent evidence proves there is no difference in weight loss between high carb, low carb, high fat, and low fat diets at the end of 2 years. This even includes diet plans with carbs ranging from 35% to 65% of the total calories per day! Dieters trying to eat 10 almonds go back to 1/2 the can and those eliminating pasta go right back to the big plate of spaghetti.

The Value of Whole Grains in Health and Weight Loss

  1. Whole gain products, other than breads, may decrease cancer and heart disease.
  2. This does not apply to whole grain breads vs. white breads where there is no difference.
  3. There is no evidence that one can lose more weight eating whole grain breads vs. white bread.
  4. All of the most recent evidence proves that there is no more weight loss benefit from restricting carbs than there is from restricting fat.
  5. People do not gain weight any more from breads than any other food with similar calories, carbs, and fat.

Conventional diet wisdom tells us to avoid white bread as if it were the devil’s offering. It encourages us to have 1/2 a chicken and a Caesar salad (all no carbs!) instead of a turkey sandwich with lettuce, tomato and mustard for lunch. Judge yourself which is better. Remember, it all comes down to calories in vs. calories used.