For Healthy Weights, Try Whole Grains


I’ve mentioned Sally Squires column in the Washington Post before. Although I don’t always agree with her advice (or that of the experts she quotes) about how to lose weight and keep it off, I do think she often has some interesting columns and some good tips to share.

This week’s column was about whole grains and healthy weight loss. Recent research shows people who eat whole grains tend to be leaner and have smaller waistlines. I took notice for two reasons. In a previous life (almost 20 years ago now), I was part of a food industry team that was pushing whole grains.

We were trying to get the public, the food industry and the government to realize that whole grains were something we all needed to be eating more of. At the time, the average American wasn’t getting more than 1 serving a day, if that. Probably aren’t getting any more now. Still, it’s good to think the message may be finally getting through. Any time we see a weight loss benefit attached to something, it gets noticed!

The second reason is that this research confirms once more that we don’t have to eat low carbohydrate diets to achieve healthy weights. Unfortunately, that old saw is still making the rounds. It’s the type of carbohydrate we eat more than the quantity (as long as we’re eating carbohydrates within a balanced eating plan).

So it’s up with the oatmeal, brown rice, whole wheat, bulgur and even spelt, and staying moderate with the refined flour products, sugary items, etc. Nothing really new as far as good nutrition goes, but people got pretty far from good nutrition with faddish low carbohydrate diets.

If this news doesn’t really sound that positive in the midst of the season’s indulgence, you might take heart from the fact that there are now whole grain flours that look like refined white flours. So the nutrition is there, but as far as what it looks and tastes like, it’s your basic white stuff. As I understand it, you can substitute it for regular white flour in many if not most recipes, and the taste and texture will be similar.

We’ve got lots of white stuff here in Vermont these days…the snowy kind. Here’s hoping it hangs around for Christmas!

6 responses to “For Healthy Weights, Try Whole Grains”

  1. Nasru says:

    Whole-grain cereals are the best choice for weight loss. Breakfast choices are endless, although whole-grain cereals top the list as the best choice for weight control and improving health.
    A Harvard study found that participants who ate whole-grain cereal every day were 17 percent less likely to die over the next several years from any cause, and 20 percent less likely to die from cardiovascular disease, than those who “rarely or never” ate whole-grain cereals.
    Look for cereals that list whole grain or bran as their first ingredient and contain at least 2 grams of dietary fiber per serving. Bran cereal and oatmeal contain at least 7 grams per serving, or about 25 percent of the recommended daily intake.

  2. marsha says:

    Thanks for the iput, Nasru. Bran, however, is not whole grain. It’s just the outer covering from a whole grain; it doesn’t contain all the good nutrition of whole grains. So when checking ingredient lists, look for the words whole grain, whole wheat, brown rice, etc. No need to get into the numbers if the first ingredients listed are ‘whole’ ingredients like these.

  3. Horror Diet says:

    I gain weight from eating brown rice. Or quinoa, spelt, or amaranth… Whole grains don’t work for everyone. They convert to sugar in the body, and increase cravings. And who needs those? 🙂

  4. marsha says:

    We’re all individual, and some of us feel differently when we eat certain things. Wheat, for example, is a problem for many people because they are sensitive to it. It just doesn’t make them feel well. But it doesn’t have anything to do with converting to sugar — it’s that they contain gluten, which is a problem for many people. We all need sugar for well-being; another word for sugar is carbohydrates. Our brains require that we eat some carbohydrate. So eating the best quality for each individual is the ideal — for some it is whole grains. For others, not because of gluten problems or maybe something we don’t know about. Eating mindfully, which means paying attention to how certain foods make us feel, helps us determine what’s best for us as individuals. So if brown rice doesn’t make you feel like you want to, don’t eat it! that’s another thing about eating mindfully — we’re in charge. we make the decisions based on how we feel and how we want to feel. what could be better? thanks for your comment!

  5. Sam Chather says:

    Had never heard of whole grain flour. Do you know if it bakes just as well as white flour? Every lil’ bit helps!

  6. marsha says:

    Hi, Sam,

    I probably should have called them whole wheat flours, because that’s what most people bake with — wheat flour. And no, it doesn’t bake the same. It’s heavier and makes for a much denser product, which I like because it’s chewier and just more substantial. We often have to use a bit more leavening (yeast, baking powder, etc.). There are plenty of good recipes around that feature whole wheat flour. One good site is King Arthur Flour, who makes a great whole wheat flour (and other whole grain flours), too.

About the Author

Marsha Hudnall, MS, RDN, CD

If you’re looking for an embodiment of dedication disguised as obsession, look no further. Marsha is a registered dietitian who has spent the last four decades working to help women give up dieting rules and understand how to truly take care of themselves. Her mission in life is to help women learn to enjoy eating and living well, without worries about their weight. She encourages women to embrace their love of food, which you might call being a foodie. If so, it’s appropriate because being a foodie means you pay attention when you eat. That’s a recipe made in heaven for eating well. Marsha is the President and Co-Owner of Green Mountain at Fox Run.

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