Look at any popular magazine these days and you’ll find at least one diet that bashes grains. Whether it’s Paleo, the Military diet or the “whole 30”, someone, somewhere is out there trying to get you to eat a bun-less sandwich. But what they may not realize is that anti-carb diets are a thing of the past. Grains are back, and for good reason.
You can’t argue with science, especially when done right. A recent study done at Tufts and published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that subjects consuming whole grains over refined grains burned more calories and absorbed less. In addition, glucose tolerance was improved in whole grain consumers. 1 Other studies have shown lower rates of obesity and cancer in individuals eating a diet containing whole grains. 2
Susan Roberts, a professor of nutrition at Tufts and author of http://www.instinctdiet.com believes Americans eat too many refined carbohydrates like white bread, pasta, pastries, and desserts, which contribute to overweight and obesity. Other scientists agree. Lauri Wright, an assistant professor in community and family health at the University of South Florida notes that whole grains are higher in antioxidants, which contribute to long term good health.
Rather than comparing weight changes in subjects, the Tufts study evaluated resting metabolic rate and energy (calorie) content in stool at the end of a 6-week study. Participants were on average, 50+ years of age with a BMI of 25.6, which is slightly above normal, but not overweight. Participants in both groups consumed about 2550 calories per day, but one group had 830 calories in whole grains while the other had 830 calories coming from refined grains. The study found that whole grain eaters burned 40 calories more than their refined grain counterparts and lost ~50 calories in stool, resulting in a 92-calorie deficit. If this deficit is carried over for a year, a 5.5 lb weight loss could be achieved. 1 A previous 2011 Harvard study of over 12,000 subjects in a whole grain study supported these results. 2
Most Americans miss the mark on fiber intake, consuming a mere 15 grams per day. The subjects in the Tufts study that ate whole grains ate about 39 grams of fiber daily versus 21 grams in the refined carbohydrate group. 1 Researchers believe the feeling of fullness in whole grain consumers affects the brains’ ability to regulate metabolism. Because your brain does not perceive that you are conserving energy, metabolism is not reduced. This is good news for carb lovers.
Making the switch to whole grains can be as easy. Swap brown rice or quinoa for white rice, or whole wheat pasta and bread for white bread or pasta. Try bran or wheat-based cereals in place of corn or rice. Whole grains are the new black.
Karl, J Philip, Meydani, Mohsen, Barnett, Junaidah, Vanegas, Sally, Goldin, Barry, Kane, Anne, Rasmussen, Helen, Saltzmn, Edward, Vangay, Pajau, Knights, Dan, Chen, C-Y Oliver, Das, Sai Krupa, Jonnalagadda, Meydani, Simin and Roberts, Susan. Substituting whole grains for refined grains in a 6-wk randomized trial favorably affects energy-balance metrics in healthy men and postmenopausal women. American J of Clinical Nutrition, February 8, 2017, doi: 10.3945/ajcn.116.139683
Mozaffarian, D, MD, Dr PH, Hao, Tao MPH, Rimm, Eric B, Willett, Walter MD, Dr PH, Hu, Frank MD, PhD. Changes in Diet and Lifestyle and long term weight gain in men and women. N Engl J Med 2011; 364:2392-2404. June 23, 2011
I tend to talk a lot about fiber. We’ve all heard that eating a diet high in fiber is linked with lower risk of disease. But, there’s something not quite right about high fiber Pop tarts or other foods like yogurt, which normally don’t contain fiber. New research suggests adding highly processed fiber to already processed foods may impact human health in a negative way, including a risk for liver cancer. This is based on research completed at Georgia State University and the University of Toledo. 1
There’s plenty of proof that eating foods naturally high in fiber is good for your health. Fiber from the skins and flesh of plant-based foods (whole grains, fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts and seeds) has been found to aid in weight management, cholesterol and blood sugar reduction and reduced risk for certain types of cancer. Fiber also aids in feeding the microbiota (good bacteria) in our bowels, which keeps our immune systems humming. 2 As health-conscious consumers recognize that their diets aren’t cutting the mustard as far as fiber goes, the food industry is enriching foods with refined soluble fibers like inulin. A recent US FDA ruling has allowed foods with supplemental fiber to be marketed as healthy. Serious concerns about the safety of these added fibers has been come to light in this study. 1
The initial research was to evaluate a diet enriched with refined inulin on obesity-associated risks with mice. Although a diet containing inulin to help reduce obesity risk, the mice began developing jaundice and after 6 months, many developed liver cancer. 1
Dr. Matam Vijay-Kumar- the senior author of the study from the University of Toledo found the results surprising, but was open to the challenge of investigating the healthy impact of processed soluble fiber. Despite the study being conducted in mice, it has potential ramifications for human health, cautioning against the addition of enriching processed foods with refined, fermentable fiber. 1
According to Dr. Andrew Gewirtz, one of the study’s authors and professor in the Institute for Biomedical Sciences at Georgia State, the research suggests that adding purified fibers to processed foods does not have the same health benefits of eating fruits and vegetables naturally high in soluble fiber. In fact, it may cause serious, life-altering liver cancer in some people. He believes that the FDA rule change which has encouraged marketing fiber-fortified food as healthy, is careless and should be better scrutinized. 1
In this study, chicory root, a form of inulin that we normally don’t consume, was used. The fiber goes through an extraction and chemical process. Rodents that developed liver cancer in the study were found to have previous dysbiosis or altered intestinal microbiota. This was suggested to play a vital role in the development of liver cancer. 1
This research suggests a need for further studies evaluating the effects of refined fiber, in particular on liver health.
The authors concluded that their research identified refined soluble fiber, while normally beneficial to good health, may also be harmful, leading to diseases like liver cancer, according to Dr. Benoit Chassaing, an assistant professor in the Neuroscience Institute of Georgia State. Fiber in general should not be seen as “bad” as the research sheds a light on fortified foods VS natural and that this type of fiber may be detrimental in some individuals with gut bacterial dysbiosis. 1
If you’re concerned about which fibers may be added to your foods, the following are FDA approved and considered safe.
- Beta-glucan soluble fiber, also called oat bran fiber
- Psyllium husk: a soluble fiber that may relieve constipation and help with diarrhea
- Cellulose: a non-soluble fiber that helps you to feel full, so you eat less
- Guar gum: a soluble fiber that is often used as a thickener in foods
- Pectin: a water-soluble fiber often added to jams and jellies
- Locust bean gum: also known as carob gum, a thickening agent found in sauces and cereals
- Hydroxypropylmethylcellulose: a soluble fiber that is found in some gluten-free foods 3
- Vishal Singh, Beng San Yeoh, Benoit Chassaing, Xia Xiao, Piu Saha, Rodrigo Aguilera Olvera, John D. Lapek, Limin Zhang, Wei-Bei Wang, Sijie Hao, Michael D. Flythe, David J. Gonzalez, Patrice D. Cani, Jose R. Conejo-Garcia, Na Xiong, Mary J. Kennett, Bina Joe, Andrew D. Patterson, Andrew T. Gewirtz, Matam Vijay-Kumar. Dysregulated Microbial Fermentation of Soluble Fiber Induces Cholestatic Liver Cancer. Cell, 2018; 175 (3): 679 DOI: 1016/j.cell.2018.09.004
- Slavin, J. Fiber and prebiotics: Mechanisms and health benefits. Nutrients. 2013 Apr; 5(4): 1417–1435.
March is National Nutrition Month where loads of neRDs like myself celebrate healthy eating. Yesterday was Registered Dietitian Day. And due to a hectic schedule and poor planning, I’m a bit late on this post.
I’ve been fortunate to have a diverse career in dietetics, but it wasn’t always that way. I remember thinking I could never change jobs because there simply wasn’t a lot of things a dietitian could do. Even 20 years ago, most RDs worked in clinical jobs, long term care or food service. I loved my time as a clinical RD at the VA and learned a lot. But, also recognized, there was not a lot of movement for me there. When I left after 23 years, I had the same title, position and desk!
Dietitians now can work in industry with food companies, universities, hospitals, outpatient clinics, long term care, corporate venues and more. There are lots of avenues to take and it’s a very exciting field.
Here are my most rewarding things about being a dietitian.
- I love to help people. I love to see a person’s face light up when their blood sugar or cholesterol improved or they lose a few stubborn pounds. It’s in my nature to want to “fix things”, but really, I’m just the facilitator. The client is doing the work.
- I get to talk about food all day. We all eat and it impacts so much of our lives. I enjoy speaking with people about how they can make better food choices within their budget, culture, health issues and food preferences. My motto is “food should never be punishment”. If you have to hold your nose to eat something, pick something else to eat.
- I have a voice. I’m a silly person by nature and like to use humor when I write and counsel people. Being an RD has afforded me the chance to blog and write professionally.
- Science changes everything. We’ve gone from “eat frequent snacks” to maintain metabolism to “intermittent fasting may help with weight loss”. If there is one thing that is constant, it’s that nothing is constant in the nutrition world. Studies are coming out daily about food, nutrition and how if impacts our health. One thing is true- vegetables never go out of style unless there’s an e-coli outbreak.
- I am always learning. There is always more to read and experience in the nutrition world. New products are coming out and technology has changed the way we shop, cook and eat. Unless our food becomes pellets (God help us), dietitians will always have a place.
I’ll be honest, I’ve never been a fan of food restriction challenges. Hearing about the Whole 30, 21-day “cleanse” or Keto diet sends me over the edge. Giving things up for Lent is about as close as I would come to being that restrictive with my diet. In fact, I have given up, “giving up” things for Lent over the years. But for some reason, I decided to try “Dry January” and see how I’d feel being alcohol-free for a month. While I don’t drink in excess, I was drinking more frequently over the holidays than I’d prefer. Here’s what I noticed.
- Socializing almost always involves some form of alcohol. Dinner with friends, book club, happy hour with co-workers. It’s difficult to get away from. My book club friends didn’t even notice I wasn’t drinking except when a toast to the New Year was made. I raised my glass of seltzer, mentioned my dry intentions once and moved on.
- My sleep improved. I enjoy cocktails on the weekend for the most part when I can sleep in. I’ve found that the older I get, the less tolerance for alcohol I have. I woke up with more energy than I usually have.
- My skin looked brighter and didn’t break out as much. Alcohol is known to exacerbate rosacea. You’d think being 50+ would reduce my chance for breakouts, but alas, I have not been that lucky. Alcohol makes my face red, puffy and bumpy.
- I lost a few pounds. This was not my goal, though post-holiday, I was a fluffier version of myself. I noticed that my mid-section was a wee bit smaller. Alcohol makes our body store more fat and it’s typically around the middle.
- My mood got better. Most people don’t realize that alcohol is a depressant. Though we drink to “feel better”, celebrate, unwind, fill in the blank. While I would enjoy alcohol while I drank it, I would almost always be sulky and bitchy the next day. No fun.
- My memory improved. This is probably one of the most significant improvements in my overall health to me. My mother developed dementia at a fairly early age (mid 60’s) and I live in fear of losing my memory. I noticed I could recall names, places and things more easily than I had been.
Will I stop drinking forever? Maybe. To be honest, I didn’t miss it as much as I thought I would. I enjoyed knowing I won’t wake up feeling foggy and tired. I like feeling a little lighter in my clothes. I’m not worried about what people will think while I drink seltzer water. Giving up coffee is another story. And I just won’t go there.
Having been in the field of nutrition nearly 30 years, I know what nutrition can and cannot do for the body. I read research studies about fiber and gut health and potassium and blood pressure. I recognize that hydration may aid with reducing constipation and that too much caffeine causes insomnia. I know more than the average bear as this is what I do. Nutrition is my bread and butter, my meat and potatoes. Puns intended.
I’ve had rheumatoid arthritis for close to 25 years. While gluten-free and other restrictive diets have worked for some people, I have tried them with moderate success, but still require chronic medication to keep me feeling somewhat normal. This is something I have accepted and have no issue doing. I am so thankful for insurance coverage to pay for my medication. Without it, I’d be in pretty bad shape.
I am a healthcare professional in a wellness field. I weigh 130 lbs and exercise regularly. I don’t look ill. But you can’t judge a book by its cover. Having 2 parents with diabetes put me at high risk for diabetes and at the age of 50, I was diagnosed with pre-diabetes. My doctor told me I could try no medication for 6 months, but with my weight being normal and exercise being regular, there was not much wiggle room. My blood sugar is in good control with diet, exercise AND meds. I need medication and I am not ashamed to admit it, yet when I tell people my situation, they are in shock. Why?
Why do people feel defeated when they need medication? Do they feel like a failure if they get a sinus infection and need antibiotics? Do they get angry for having a migraine and needing medication to help it? It’s as if it’s their fault that they got arthritis, high blood pressure or high cholesterol. And again, while diet therapy can help control these chronic issues, medication has its place and thank God we have it.
This month, I had blood drawn for my annual physical. I’ll admit, I had cookies over the holidays and my share of cheese but did not go overboard. In fact, my weight did not change and neither did my exercise level. But, you can’t outrun your heredity. My cholesterol is close to 240 and LDL (“lousy”) cholesterol is nearly 150. With a chronic inflammatory illness and family history of heart disease, my risk for heart disease is higher than most.
So, guess what? My doctor practically insisted that I start medicine to lower my cholesterol. Am I happy about it? No. But do I want to have a heart attack or need bypass surgery in the next 10 years? Definitely not. I will continue to eat a healthy diet to help reduce my risk of getting diabetes and heart disease. I will continue to exercise to maintain decent joint function and keep my weight in check. Dietitians are not super humans. We are people with chronic diseases just like the clients we help. We recognize that diet therapy can only do so much. And that is OK.