Wholegrains may not seem the most exciting subject but they offer many health benefits as they are full of nutrients and fibre. They are also promoted as an aid to weight management and with the start of a new year many of us are extra keen to lose that excess weight.
What do we know about them and how can we make use of this for ourselves?
Wholegrains are defined as the intact, ground, flaked or cracked kernels which remain after the removal of inedible parts of the grain (such as the hull and husk).
Wholegrains are fantastically nutritious and can contain up to 75% more nutrients than refined grains. Studies have linked a diet high in wholegrains with numerous health benefits, such as 20% reduced risk of bowel cancer and a 30% reduction in the risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease and stroke.
What is their role in weight management?
Wholegrains are high in starchy carbohydrates and low in fat. They have relatively low calorie content, so a diet high in wholegrains may be beneficial for weight management.
As wholegrains generally have a low glycaemic index (GI), they slowly release carbohydrate into the blood and stabilise blood glucose levels; this, along with the high fibre content of wholegrains, is thought to promote satiety, control appetite and reduce urges for snacking. Conversely, refined grains (such as found in white bread) contain mainly processed starch which is rapidly broken down and released into the bloodstream, producing a blood sugar high followed by strong desires to snack on more sugary/fatty foods.
Evidence for wholegrains and weight management
An early study relating to bread intake found that roughly 83% of subjects consumed more calories when white bread was provided compared to wholemeal bread. In 2001 a study found that adding 14g of fibre per day to subjects diets during a weight loss trial resulted in a 10% decrease in calorie intake and a weight loss of >1.9kg.
There is evidence that diets high in wholegrains are associated with lower levels of obesity, for example, ‘The Nurses’ Health Study’ found that women who consumed a high intake of wholegrains consistently weighed less than those with lower wholegrain intakes, and those with the highest fibre intake had a 49% lower risk of extreme weight gain. A recent large study from the US found that ‘greater wholegrain consumption was associated with better intakes of nutrients and healthier body weight in children and adults’. Similar findings have also been found in the UK.
What wholegrain intake should I have?
Although there are no specific UK guidelines for daily wholegrain intake, the new Eat well Guide recommends basing meals on starchy carbohydrates choosing ‘wholegrain versions where possible’. Furthermore the recent Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN) report on carbohydrates and health advised that adults should consume at least 30g of fibre per day and in order to reach this a significant daily intake of wholegrains is needed.
The most recent National Diet and Nutrition Survey from 2012-2014 found the average fibre intake for adults in the UK is below recommended levels at 13-14g/day. It found 18% of adults and 15% of children/teenagers did not consume any wholegrain foods!
- If you usually eat refined grains and are looking to make the switch to wholegrains then it is advised you do this gradually. This will maximise tolerance and minimise potential gut irritation.
- It is important also to consume plenty of fluid and to be physically active for at least 150 minutes per week.
- When reading food labels it is useful to know that ‘multigrain’ does not indicate wholegrain (rather it means that the product contains more than one different type of grain).
- Fibre intake can be optimised by choosing ‘high fibre’ varieties of wholegrain products which contain >6g of fibre per 100g.
- To put it in perspective swapping white spaghetti for the wholegrain variety can provide per served portion about another 6g of fibre.
- Swap white products like rice, bread, pasta, for the wholegrain variety.
- If you have a sensitive digestive system (such as irritable bowel syndrome) be cautious not to load up on things like wheat bran as this is a well known irritator of the gut.
If you would like to know more about this subject and how it could be of benefit to you then you can contact Marko at Magna Vitae on 07767 664186.
Regular nutrition workshops are run in all four sites, and there is also opportunity to book a nutrition meeting with Marko if you require more specific guidance tailored to your own needs. Nutrition Advice to find more information about the nutrition support we offer.