Make Your Calories Count: Choose 100% Whole Grains

April 6, 2012 in fiber, Health, Nutrition, Whole Grains by Mary Ireland

In his blog, Is A Calorie A Calorie?, Mark Bittman writes about his interview with Marion Nestle, author of a new book Why Calories Count: From Science to Politics (California Studies in Food and Culture). The blog post makes interesting reading and of course the answer to the calorie question is not a simple yes or no. Bittman quotes Nestle as saying “The studies that have measured calorie intake, that have put people on calorie-reduced diets and measured what happened, show no difference in weight loss based on composition of the diet.” In other words, under controlled circumstances when only calories are taken into consideration, people will lose weight if the calories in their diets are reduced — regardless of the composition of the diet.

However, a diet that results in weight loss may or may not nourish your body and result in health. Nestle also points out “eating better makes it much easier to eat less.” Eating better includes eating more fruits and vegetables which help to satisfy your hunger without a lot of calories. Dr. Grandma espouses the Mediterranean style of eating -- focusing on whole grains, vegetables and fruits. At Dr. Grandma's, we discuss eating better, nourishing your body and maintaining a healthy weight a lot in our blog posts. For example Dr. Grandma’s blog post Another Reason to Keep Eating Whole Grains discusses the benefits of fiber — which include a lower risk of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, infectious diseases, respiratory diseases and some cancers. Fiber from whole grains supports health and it is important in weight management.

Another study substantiating the benefits of whole grains was reported by Tufts University. That study found that people who consume several servings of whole grains per day while limiting daily intake of refined grains appear to have less Visceral Adipose Tissue (VAT) which is thought to play role in triggering cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes. Visceral fat surrounds the intra-abdominal organs while subcutaneous fat is found just beneath the skin. “VAT volume was approximately 10 % lower in adults who reported eating three or more daily servings of whole grains and who limited their intake of refined grains to less than one serving per day,” says first author Nicola McKeown, PhD, a scientist with the Nutritional Epidemiology Program at the USDA HNRCA.

While food processors promote the "calorie is a calorie" concept, they are also aware that the public is getting smarter about the products they select. Wanting to make their products sound healthier without actually improving them, the food processor have become very good at deceptive packaging. This makes it especially important to be vigilant before you purchase a product. As we have pointed out before, not all foods that are marketed as whole grain or whole wheat really deliver whole grains. Wording to be on the look out for is:

  • Made with whole grains.It may have some whole grains, but unless it's 100 percent, you may be getting refined grains.
  • Multigrain.This tells you nothing about whether the grains are whole or refined.
  • Whole grain. The label should read "100 percent whole grain," otherwise it may have grain blends.

Avoid products when the ingredient list contains these words: "enriched," "bleached," and "unbleached."