Though carbohydrates (read starches, grains, breads) have been demonized by the media and diet gurus over the past several years, the truth is- diets containing grains are healthier than those without. Research shows that whole/unprocessed grains are higher in fiber, vitamin E, magnesium, zinc and anti-oxidants than other plant foods. Individuals that eat high fiber diets have a 22% lower risk of dying than those that eat lower fiber diets.
And did you know, healthy people that follow a gluten-free diet may RAISE their risk for diabetes? That’s because grains containing gluten are usually higher in fiber (which is protective against diabetes) than those that don’t.
What’s important to good health is balance. Knowing what counts as a serving can keep your weight and blood sugar in check if you need to limit calories and/or carbohydrates. Below are some ways to add more whole grains to your diet.
- Swap whole oats for instant oatmeal. The type in the tall cylinder is not only cheaper, but lower in sugar and salt than the instant type.
- Choose 100% whole wheat bread over “wheat bread”. ALL bread is wheat bread, unless it’s made with potato or other flour. Look for the words “100% whole” on the label and “whole” in the ingredients. Whole wheat white is legit! Most bread is made using red wheat, but whole wheat white is made with white wheat. This is still a whole grain, but may have a lighter, softer texture.
- Choose brown rice over white rice. Individuals that have just 2 servings (about 2/3 cup) of brown rice/week have a 10% lower risk of diabetes than those eating white rice.
- Mix it up. Try quinoa, barley, bulgur, spelt, wheat berries and other whole grains. No one says you have to eat potatoes and rice only!
- Eat whole pasta over white pasta. While the carbohydrate and calorie count is identical, the fiber is 3 x higher in whole wheat pasta over white. Whole grain pasta keeps you feeling fuller longer, which may aid in weight loss.
- Choose breakfast cereal with 5 grams of fiber or more per serving. Shredded wheat and bran flakes each offer 5-7 grams in ¾ cup.
- Season grains with herbs, spices or various vinegars. This keeps the fat and calories lower while adding a little flare and flavor to your side dishes.
- Pay attention to serving sizes. What you get at a restaurant is likely 4 servings! Go for ½ cup servings of cooked rice or pasta and read labels on cereal boxes for serving size. They vary based on sugar and calorie content.