If you are in search of a quick weight loss or energy fix, look no further than whole grains. A recent study published in the American Journal of Nutrition showed that in just six weeks, substituting refined for whole grains not only created a healthier gut environment, but also increased metabolism, indicating that whole grains are effective for weight management.
The increased consumption of whole grains increases calorie loss by reducing calories retained during the digestion process, thus speeding up metabolism. The favorable influence on energy balance explains the association of whole grains with reduced body weight. The extra calories lost by participants consuming whole grains added up to about 100 calories a day. Add that with some daily physical activity and you could end up with some impressive weight loss.
Bring on the bread
The easiest way to incorporate whole grains into your diet is through bread. It’s versatile and delicious; you won’t even know you’re eating a health food! You can find breads with a variety of grains, including wheat, oats, and rye. As far as whole grain breads go, a regular go-to of mine is the non-GMO Best Grains line of Aunt Millie’s. I have many favorites, but the 80 calorie Multi-Grain High Fiber Best Grain bread provides some great versatility, especially if you are managing your weight. There are several ways to identify a whole grain bread. Always make sure it is the first ingredient on the list and then verify there are no added sugars. If something is stamped with the Whole Grain Stamp by the Whole Grain Council, you can count on a serving having at least 8 grams of whole grains. Approximately 48 grams of whole grains are recommended per day.
It’s not just about weight loss
Let’s also not forget the many studies that link whole grains and fiber to numerous health benefits for chronic disease prevention and management, including heart disease, obesity, type 2 diabetes, and some cancers. For example, a Harvard study published in 2015 (by the Journal of the American Medical Association) found that whole grain consumption had a decreased risk of death from cardiovascular disease over a 25-year period. Participants who ate 28 grams (a 1-ounce serving) of whole grains per day had a 5 percent lower risk of dying from cardiovascular disease related death over the study period than those who ate few or no grains. Replacing just one serving a day of refined grains with whole grains had an 8 percent lower risk of premature death, and those replacing one serving of red meat with whole grains had a 20 percent death risk reduction. Keep in mind: whole grains are high in fiber, creating less calorie dense food consumption due to increased satiety or sense of fullness and satisfaction. This contributes to weight loss efforts while maintaining good nutrition in addition to helping with some gastrointestinal conditions.
It’s all about fuel
Carbohydrates, such as whole grains, fuel a healthy and active lifestyle. Skimping on carbs can really make getting through a workout and busy day seem quite a sad challenge. Fatigue or sluggishness in the day may indicate a lack of glucose (glycogen) necessary to fuel muscles. Glucose is the preferred energy source for the brain as well. A piece of toast spread with almond butter before a workout can go a long way.
Deprivation of carbs in the diet means depriving the majority of your organs of their primary source of fuel. Rather than hold back on carbohydrates, incorporate smart choices. Make a daily diet of fruits, vegetables, beans/legumes, and grain foods. For example, 100 percent whole grains are packed with vitamins, minerals, and fiber.
Don’t forget about fiber
There are a few ways to determine if a whole grain is a good source of fiber. I myself use three grams or more of fiber per serving as my quick benchmark for a good source of fiber. For instance, a whole grain slice of bread (or one serving) that contains 5 grams of fiber would be considered a good fiber source. Another rule of thumb is 14 grams of fiber per 1,000 calories consumed.
The 10:1 ratio provides a simple way to identify good whole grains, by recommending 1 gram of fiber for every 10 grams of total carbohydrate. To apply this concept, look at your food labels, identify the carbs and fiber, and divide the grams of carbohydrates by 10. If the amount of fiber listed on the label is at least as large as the answer, the food has met the 10:1 ratio. The recommended amount of daily fiber intake is 21 to 25 grams for women and 30 to 38 grams for men. That’s a high number to strive for considering the average American only consumes 15 grams per day, but just think of all the benefits doing so will reap.
The Bottom Line: Bread isn’t your enemy. There are many varieties of breads to choose from, and whole grains provide the fuel your body needs to tackle everything life brings. So when you’re deciding what to eat, invite bread to the table.
Lela Iliopoulos is a Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator and an expert in nutrition therapy, health promotion, and education. She is passionate about impacting nutritional health through the practical application of science-based information.