Eliminate grains in favor of vegetables, fruits, and nuts to stay young, healthy, and prevent disease. You’ll also have a better body composition and you will probably live longer. If you want to be as healthy as possible, processed and “whole” grains should be removed from your diet. The problem with whole grains is that they contain minimal fiber, are high glycemic, will rapidly raise blood sugar, contain lots of carbohydrates, a small amount of protein, and most have lots of gluten.
It is true that whole grains that are cooked in their hull are going to provide more health and nutritional benefits than processed grains. Be aware that even when a cereal, bread, or pasta package says it’s made from whole grains, that doesn’t mean that you are actually going to get to eat the whole grain since once a grain has been turned into flour, it is no longer “whole.”
Boiled rye, quinoa, or rice may be a better choice than highly processed bread or cereal that has added sugar, high fructose corn syrup, and fortified nutrients that don’t naturally occur in the ingredients. But, a new review in the journal Nutrition Reviews shows that eating whole grains is not the answer to better health or better body composition. Rather, studies suggest that eating more fruits and vegetables in place of grains will give you a leaner body and better health for the long term.
The analysis reviewed 135 research studies published between 2000 and 2010 and found that when you compare diets high in refined grain products (cereal, bread, pasta, pastries) with those that are high in whole grains (cooked grains that are not refined), there is no significant difference in disease risk. Findings show that there is a trend toward eating less fruits and vegetables among people who eat lots of refined grain foods that is in turn correlated with greater obesity, but eating lots of whole grains doesn’t provide much health or body composition benefit.
In contrast, two other large-scale studies, each with more than 15,000 participants, showed a direct link between fruit and vegetable consumption and lower disease risk. A 2007 study published in Public Health Nutrition found that men and women who ate the greatest amount of fruits and vegetables a day had better body composition, lower disease risk, and felt physically better than those who ate the least. Increasing the daily intake of fruits and vegetables by two portions was linked to an 11 percent decreased chance of developing a serious disease.
A 2003 study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition also showed that greater fruit and vegetable was linked to lower risk of cardiovascular disease and better body composition. Researchers also looked at refined and whole grain intake in this population and found no positive effect of eating more whole grains on diet except when fruit and vegetable intake was at the highest percentage. The participants who ate the greatest amount of fruits and vegetables and ate whole grains with almost no processed grains had a low disease risk.
Take away from these studies the understanding that if you are going to eat grains, it’s better to eat whole ones than processed ones because processed ones are more likely to have additives and extra fat and sugar. But, to be truly healthy, you should minimize all grains in your diet. Substitute grains with fruits and vegetables. If your goal is to improve body composition, focus on eating vegetables, fruits that are low in fructose and have a low-glycemic index (berries), high-quality unprocessed protein, and including a small amount of nuts in your diet.
Steffen, L., Jacobs, D., et al. Associations of Whole-Grain, Refined-Grain, and Fruit and Vegetable Consumption with Risks of All-Cause Mortality and Incident of Coronary Artery Disease and Ischemic Stroke. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2003. 78(3), 383-390.
Myint, P., Welch, A., et al. Fruit and Vegetable Consumption and Self-Reported Functional Health in <en and Women in the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer-Norfolk. Public Health Nutrition. 2007. 10(1), 34-41.
Williams, Peter. Evaluation of the Evidence Between Consumption of Refined Grains and Health Outcomes. Nutrition Reviews. 2011. 70(2), 80-99.