By: Shani Goldner MS RD CDN CFI
Whole grains are getting a lot of press lately. Nine out of ten Americans do not get enough whole grains. That is no surprise when you find out that the recommendation is three servings of whole grains each day. One of the key benefits that can be found in whole grains is their excellent source of fiber. Nutrition experts are proclaiming fiber as the new wonder food. It's good for lowering cholesterol, for preventing diabetes and perhaps cancer, and for maintaining a healthy weight, as well as keeping the digestive system in excellent working order.
In a Harvard study, men who ate 1-2 ounces of whole grains per day, cut their risk of heart disease by 18%. There was an added benefit if the whole grains had a high bran content. People who consumed a diet rich in wheat and oat bran further reduced their heart disease risk by 30%.
Whole grains and fiber are not a dietary necessity strictly for old people. It is necessary for everyone. The U.S. Surgeon General, the Institute of Medicine, the American Academy of Family Physicians and many other organizations are saying that we should be eating more fiber. People have shifted their focus from the high protein fad diets to a menu where you can now include carbohydrates. Who wants to eliminate bread, cereal, and rice from their diet forever?
The switch to carbs is a nod in the right direction, but to get there, you must make the switch to whole grain carbohydrates. You still want to monitor how much of your total carb intake is from highly processed sugars, and rather, consume high quality carbs that provide you with soluble and insoluble fiber.
Where can you find fiber? It is the part of the plant that is a nondigestible complex carbohydrate. Insoluble fibers can be found in wheat bran, whole grains, and vegetables. The benefit that these fibers offer is they provide bulk to the foods you eat. Soluble fiber can be found in oats, barley, and beans. They keep you full for longer. They bind to LDL cholesterol, helping to pull the “bad” cholesterol out of circulation. It also helps stabilize your blood sugar levels leaving you with a reduced risk of developing type II diabetes, hypercholesteremia, and colon cancer.
How much do you need? 25-35 grams of dietary fiber each day for adults. Children need 5 grams per day plus their age. For example an eight year old needs 5g + 8g = 13g each day.
Before you become overwhelmed by the numbers, remember that a serving of fruit or vegetables provide you with 3 grams, ½ cup oatmeal provides another 3 grams. One serving of whole grain cereal provides anywhere from 3-14g of fiber. One slice of whole wheat bread can contain 1-3g per slice. It is very important to read the nutrition labels to maximize your intake of high fiber foods.
Another great way to increase your intake of whole grains is by switching from white pasta to whole wheat pasta. It may take some getting used to, but it is well worth the effort. It has two to three times as much fiber as regular pasta. Considering how many adults and children love this dish, the whole wheat version can now be a guilt free way to enjoy your favorite dish. Just remember that a serving is ½ -3/4 cup raw.
The food industry came out with a huge variety of dark brown, whole wheat pastas that can be found in your supermarket. Sales of whole-grain pasta have tripled in the past four years. Consumers are taking to heart the advice to increase their intake of whole grains in their diets.
Shani Goldner is a Registered Dietitian with a Masters of Science and a Certified Dietitian/ Nutritionist. She is an Oxford Provider. In her private nutrition practice, she counsels adolescents and adults in weight loss, diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular health and cancer related nutrition. She can be reached at (718) 854-5784. Please send questions or comments to mynydiet.com