Paleo, keto, grain-free, Whole30… all of these diets restrict grains for one reason or another, and maybe it leaves you questioning your daily grain intake. Well, as a registered dietitian, I’m here to set the record straight. Whole grains are very beneficial for our health and taste great, so don’t count them out just yet. Let’s uncover a few myths surrounding whole grains and how they provide the nourishment we need.
There’s been chatter circling the Internet and society for years that gluten causes inflammation in the body and leads to disease. While it is true that people with Celiac Disease and gluten sensitivities do experience adverse symptoms and inflammatory immune responses to gluten, this is not the case for everyone.
In fact, whole grains are actually associated with decreased inflammation in the body. Check out this study that shows how consumption of whole grains may lead to improved C-reactive protein levels (a measure of inflammation).
We also can’t forget about gut health here! Whole grains contain fiber and resistant starches that benefit your gut health. These nutrients help increase the amount of “good bacteria” in your gut that help fight inflammation and improve your overall health. Pretty awesome, right?!
You may be thinking, “grains have carbs… so they must spike blood sugar.” While carbohydrates are digested quicker than protein and fat, many grains do indeed provide a slow, stable source of energy. The starchy structure and fiber in whole grains takes longer for the body to digest, preventing rapid spikes in blood sugar.
Diabetes is an incredibly complex condition. Many believe restricting carbohydrate intake is a cure-all for diabetes, however, according to the American Diabetes Association, carbs are still important in your daily consumption. How you eat carbs is key. When you reach for filling foods, focus on eating complex carbohydrates, like whole grains, that are rich in fiber to help aid in blood sugar control.
In addition, whole grain consumption may reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. In a large study across a 30-year period, a group who ate whole grains regularly had a 29% lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes than those who rarely ate whole grains, while also considering lifestyle. Incredible!
Sure, eating lots of grains can drain energy if that’s all you’re eating. But grains are a great source of carbohydrates that act as a sustainable source of energy for your body. They help keep you fuller longer because they’re digested slower thanks to the fiber and starchy structure.
Did you know carbohydrates are your body’s most efficient, preferred source of energy? Your brain thrives with adequate carbohydrates, so while you’re powering through school, work, or whatever adventure you’re on, it’s important to stay sharp mentally and physically.
To put this bluntly, there is not a single food that inherently causes weight gain. When it comes to health and weight, it’s about the big picture. What is your lifestyle like? What are your food choices like most of the time? How’s your sleep, mental health, and stress levels? Each play a vital role in your overall health.
Whole grains can help provide your body with adequate carbohydrate and fiber to keep you satisfied and energized, preventing intense cravings later on; therefore, helping you find a healthy “balance” with food and your weight.
Again, one singular food does not cause weight gain. Your health and weight are much more complex!
As you can see, there’s no need to fear whole grains. They’re beneficial for our bodies, and they taste amazing. While many people are concerned that whole grains taste “grainy,” I find the flavor of whole grains to be richer, the texture smoother, and I always feel very satisfied after eating them. Some of my favorite whole grain foods are oatmeal, pasta, pancakes, and farro.
I try to look for whole grains that are easy to prepare because we all know how busy life can get! Kodiak Power Cakes Flapjack & Waffle Mix is a staple in my pantry because I don’t always have time to make homemade pancakes, but I still want them to taste like they are! Kodiak flapjacks are so soft and fluffy, and you’d never guess they were made from a boxed mix (I actually like them better than homemade pancakes — sorry mom!). The best part is Kodiak’s main ingredient is… you guessed it, whole grains! A few of my favorite flavors include Cinnamon Oat, Chocolate Chip, and Almond Poppy Seed. Yum!
How do you think you could include more whole grains in your diet?
Alayna Horvath is a Registered Dietitian and Certified Personal Trainer who is dedicated to empowering others in becoming their happiest, healthiest selves. After her father’s passing due to colon cancer as a child, Alayna struggled with “obsessive healthy eating”, food guilt, and stressing about every food choice. Since then, she has transformed her relationship with food and is determined to help others find food freedom as well. Alayna helps her clients become confident with food and their bodies, understand how to best fuel their bodies, eat without guilt, and find balance with food for life! To connect more with Alayna, you can find her on her Instagram.