Whole grain plays role in healthy diet

Results of a recent Nanos survey conducted by the Healthy Grains Institute indicate that Canadians are confused about the role whole grain plays in their diets.

A clear majority of Canadians (67 percent) said wheat-based products such as bread and pasta contribute to weight gain, but they also said they would feel unhealthier if they eliminated wheat (57 percent) or gluten (46 percent) from their diets altogether.

This suggests recognition of the health benefits of whole grain, such as wheat, barley, brown rice and oats, but it also shows that misinformation about the health and nutritional benefits of whole grains and fad diets that promote the elimination of entire food groups has contributed to misperceptions of whole grains.

The Healthy Grains Institute was launched last week to study and compile research on the benefits of eating whole grain. It will be guided by an independent scientific advisory council.

With a wealth of scientific information available that supports the role that whole grains can play in a healthy diet, the institute will identify and direct Canadians toward scientific evidence that will help them make educated, science-based decisions about the food they eat.

Celebrity “authorities” and authors promoting fad diets have made an increasing number of unsubstantiated weight-loss claims that eliminate whole grain entirely. It is important to note that all foods have many components and fit together like puzzle pieces.

Removing one significant part could put you at risk of missing essential nutrients in your diet, which are beneficial for cardiovascular health and weight management.

For instance, we have seen the gluten-free diet gain popularity in the last few years.

Slightly more than 36 percent of Canadians surveyed thought that gluten-free diets help weight loss, despite the fact that celiac disease affects one percent of Canadians, up to six percent are gluten sensitive and there is no existing scientific or clinical data to support a weight loss claim for a gluten-free diet.

Following a gluten-free diet is not necessary unless you have celiac disease or are gluten sensitive. Canadians who follow a gluten-free diet when they don’t need to and do not supplement their diet with other nutritious food may be putting their health at risk.

The vast majority of Canadians say that they would feel unhealthier if they removed whole grains from their diets, but they also believe that whole grains such as bread and pasta contribute to weight gain.

These survey results reaffirm the need for education on the role that whole grains play in Canadians’ ongoing quest for weight management.

Recent studies have investigated the effects of including whole grain in diets for better weight control and have found evidence to support the role whole grain plays in weight management.

Specifically, those who include whole grains as part of a healthy, well-balanced diet are less likely to gain weight over time.

Of course, the other side of this is chronic disease because excess weight is associated with preventable diseases such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

Existing research shows that including whole grains in our diet can potentially help lower the risk of developing chronic diseases such as diabetes and heart disease and reduce obesity.

For more information, visit www.HealthyGrains.ca.

Shelley Case is a registered dietitian, author of Gluten-Free Diet: A Comprehensive Resource Guide and a member of the Healthy Grains Institute’s scientific advisory council.

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