Let’s bust a few well-known myths today!
“Grains Aren’t Needed in the Diet”
Grains, including both refined and whole grains, are a critical source of energy, nutrients and vitamins/minerals. When I say grains are needed for “energy, “I mean they are a source of calories that have other benefits such as B vitamins, vitamin E, magnesium, iron and fiber. We call this “nutrient density” in that they provide a good amount of nutrients in a smaller amount of calories. Without grains, it would be a hard to replace our carbohydrate needs, which are recommended to be 45-55% of our diet depending on our activity level, with other sources such as fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy and beans/legumes. The brain is solely powered by carbohydrates, so including some high-quality sources of grains is in fact a “no brainer!”
“Grains Cause Obesity and Other Diseases”
The claim that grains cause obesity and other diseases stems from their effects on insulin and fat storage, but scientific evidence overwhelmingly rejects this hypothesis. Any food group, when eaten in excess of needs, is converted to fat for use at a later time. Many early indigenous groups, and even those living in other countries today, thrive on large carbohydrates/grains with high activity levels.
“Many People Shouldn’t Eat Grains Because They Cause Inflammation”
Very few people are actually required to be “gluten-free” due to celiac disease. While this new trend of eating seems to be catching on rapidly, scientific literature shows up to 2% of Americans have celiac disease. The rest of us can benefit in multiple ways from including grains, and half of those as whole grains, in our diet. In a recent four-week clinical trial, “researchers at the University of Nebraska showed that eating a cup of whole grain barley or brown rice (or a combination of the two) can increase the “good” bacteria in the gut that fight inflammation” (1). Other research has linked whole grains to reducing levels of C-reactive protein, which is a marker of inflammation linked with heart disease and type 2 diabetes (2).
One thing all experts agree on are the benefits of fiber, which is found in higher amounts within whole grains. From gut and heart-heath to weight management, including quality sources of fiber keeps us happy, healthy and full after a meal.
In the end, the benefits of grains are compelling and when eaten in appropriate amounts, grains add antioxidants, vitamins and fiber to our diets while helping reduce the risk of heart disease, cancer and diabetes.