The title of this blog post is true, whole grains are winning the health race on the scientific racecourse – and by a large margin. Unfortunately, they are losing the sales race to the refined products of Food Inc., also by a large margin. One of the jobs I have taken on as Doctor Grandma is to keep up on the studies that increasingly reveal the truth about eating whole grains, and other foods found in the Mediterranean-style of eating. This is a constant job to keep up and share the results with you, as the studies are coming out all the time. On the other hand, we have blogged about Food Inc. in these pages, and the profitability of highly processed foods that take out the perishable but highly nutritious parts of foods. Whole grain was one of the first to suffer this nutritional assault. Taking out the bran and germ increases the shelf life and profitability of grain products. We have shown that the increased profits lead to massive advertising and wide distribution, so it is harder to get ready access to truly yummy whole-grain products. (See in particular; True Costs, Part I; My nutrition perspective; True costs, Part II)
More evidence in favor of whole grains: Two new studies have been published; one in the British Journal of Nutrition and another in the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry. The studies found that a diet rich in whole grains tended to lower subjects’ total and LDL (bad stuff) cholesterol compared with diets rich in refined grains. This the first study where researchers have found more of the molecule betaine, associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease in the plasma of those who ate a diet rich in whole grains. Researchers have known for a long time that whole grains are associated with a decreased risk of cardiovascular disease, but this is the first identification that part of the benefit may be as a result of increasing betaine in the plasma of the consumer.
The researchers suggest that those eating a gluten free diet, such as those with celiac disease, may need to compensate by eating other foods that are rich in betaine. Whole wheat and whole rye are the two highest sources of betaine in grains. Those with celiac or other legitimate reasons to maintain gluten-free diets should be sure to engage the help of a registered dietitian to ensure that they are optimally nourished. Others should make the decision very mindfully if they decide not to eat whole grains – working to avoid the risks of missing the benefits of the whole grains.
Meanwhile, Foodland is loaded with the highly refined flours, where hundreds of healthful ingredients in whole grains have been processed out, and in their place have been added about 11 vitamin or mineral additives. They have given the nutritionally deprived white flours with these additives the name “enriched flour”. This name is a fine example of an oxymoron, a word or phrase that contains a self-contradiction. For fun, look at this list of examples, which contains other Foodland gems like “all natural artificial flavor,” “Aunt Jemima Light,” and “fresh dried fruits.”
Fortunately, the overwhelming scientific evidence in favor of eating several servings of whole grains a day is having an impact, especially on grocery store shelves. Unfortunately, there is still too much hype and deceit in presenting certain products as pretended whole grain. In restaurants, I’m a little perplexed by the dearth of whole grains on most menus. I’m not referring to the processed flour breads colored with molasses, but real whole grains. I feel that the work of many public-health-oriented organizations promoting whole grains, and my own small contributions, still have a long, uphill battle. Food Inc. is going to protect its profit margins in nutritionally deprived foods with a long shelf live. Their high profit margins enable them to use massive advertising and other powerful marketing techniques, and to continue to fill up shelf spaces in stores, menus in restaurants, and omni-present snack food dispensers with their highly processed, higher profit margin products. Because of this imbalance in messaging and product availability the general public is still not demanding whole grains. Now that good tasting whole grains are available, I hope that consumers will be able to break old habits and addictions and begin to replace processed white flour products with whole grain products. I hope they will begin to discover that whole grain products like the ones we offer at Doctor Grandma’s are indeed convenient, yummy and also very good for you like this Country Blueberry Almond Breakfast.