“Gluten-free” has become a popular buzz word over the last few years to make people think a particular food item is healthy. But truthfully, avoiding wheat doesn’t have any health benefits unless you have a gluten intolerance, Celiac disease, gluten sensitivity, or a wheat allergy. The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) says, “No current data suggests that the general public should maintain a gluten-free diet for weight loss or better health.”
Wheat may be the most common grain in the U.S., but even people on a gluten-free diet can enjoy whole grains like oats, brown rice, wild rice, corn, amaranth, sorghum, and millet. Whole grains have been shown in numerous studies to reduce the risk of stroke, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes, in addition to reducing inflammation and promoting a healthy weight. When it comes to GI health, though, our favorite benefit of whole grains is that they lower the risk of colorectal cancer! Earlier this year, a study funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and published in the British journal The Lancet found that in 2017, a diet low in whole grains was a leading dietary risk factor for death and disability worldwide.
In fact, whole grains are so important, they have a whole month dedicated to them! September is Whole Grains Month, and here are some tips to incorporate more whole grains into your diet.
Educate yourself on what to look for to ensure you’re eating whole grains instead of refined or enriched grains. A lot of people think increasing their intake of whole grains means they’re free to consume any carbohydrate, but that’s certainly not true. Refined grains, like white flour and white rice, have 25% less protein and 50%-67% fewer nutrients than their whole-grain counterparts. Or maybe you think that enriched wheat flour must be better than whole wheat flour because it’s been “enriched.” Unfortunately, enriched wheat flour is just refined wheat flour with some nutrients added back in, and they’re totally out of proportion with the nutrient levels in whole wheat flour. Stick with whole grains; they’re the best choice of the three!
Make an Effort
Make a conscious effort to buy only whole grains all month instead of whatever you usually buy. Now that you know the difference between whole grains, refined grains, and enriched grains, you can study labels to swap healthy whole grains for your usual brands. Examples of this include whole wheat buns instead of the typical white buns, brown/wild rice or quinoa instead of potatoes, buckwheat pancakes instead of buttermilk, and purchasing whole wheat pasta, steel-cut oatmeal, and whole wheat flour instead of their refined counterparts.
Try Something New
Aren’t sure what to do with all of the whole grains you just bought at the grocery store? Try some new whole grain recipes. Incorporating more whole grains into family meals will teach your children how to enjoy eating healthy. You may end up discovering some new family favorites!