Grains are one of the most controversial topics of discussion in the worlds of nutrition, health, and fitness. Carbs, gluten; grains have developed quite the bad reputation, in my opinion, primarily due to scientifically-unfounded nutrition guidelines that encouraged decades of Americans to make highly processed, energy dense, and sugar-laden grain products the foundation of their diet. Grains aren’t all bad, and if you aren’t celiac or don’t have legitimate sensitivities, recent research is beginning to uncover some great reasons as to why grains should be a component of your diet. A recently published study suggests that whole grains may have some benefits for those looking to manage their weight.
In a randomized, controlled, parallel-arm controlled-feeding trial, 81 participants aged 40-65 years of age were randomly assigned to 1 of 2 weight maintenance diets for 6 weeks after basal measurements were taken after two weeks of monitoring on their regular diets. The assigned diets were individually developed to meet each participant’s basal needs, with the goal of weight maintenance throughout the study, and were identical from a macronutrient composition and meal structure standpoint. The difference between the diets was the whole-grain and fiber contents; with the research group consuming only whole-grain foods such as brown rice and rolled oats, while the control group consumed a more conventional “western” diet that included refined grain products and less fiber. Participants were asked to consume nothing outside of the assigned diets, track what they had eaten daily in a journal, and continue with their normal physical activity habits. Energy metabolism and body composition, along with markers of glycemic control, gut microbiota, and appetite were measured at week 2, when starting the new diets, and again at the end of week 8. The most interesting finding was that the whole grains group lost an extra 94 calories per day compared to the control group, through a combination of increased metabolism and greater fecal losses. The daily metabolic boost was approximately equivalent to a 30 minute low intensity walk and could result in an annual weight loss of up to 5lbs. While further research needs to be conducted, the researchers believe that the results were due to the indigestible fiber and increased thermal effect of food (TEF) required to breakdown the less processed whole grains.
While there are certainly limitations to this study, it does provide some further insight as to what is the true culprit in the negative health outcomes normally experienced in a high grain diet, namely highly processed food. Not all “carbs” are created equal. Brown rice, whole rolled oats (or even better, steel cut oats or oat groats), barley, and other whole grains are vital components of a healthy well-rounded diet, regardless of your body composition and fitness goals. They are a rich source of satiating fiber, low glycemic complex carbohydrates for long-lasting energy, B-vitamins, and several other micronutrients, and research has associated consumption of whole grains with decreased risk of numerous chronic health concerns. The weight-gaining and disease-promoting risk of high grain consumption stems from replacing whole grains with the highly processed cereals, breads, and pastas common in the contemporary Western Diet.
Replace your morning cereal with a filling and nutrient-dense bowl of oatmeal, and watch those numbers on the scale drop.
Dr. Damian Rodriguez is the health and exercise scientist for doTERRA International, LLC. He holds a doctorate in health science, a master’s degree in exercise physiology, and countless professional certifications. He has spent most of his life researching nutrition, exercise, and the lifestyle behaviors associated with optimal health. Along with his passion for health, as someone who lives with Asperger’s Syndrome, he is also involved in bringing awareness to autism spectrum disorders. There are varying opinions about many health and fitness topics. His opinions are his own and not necessarily that of doTERRA International, LLC. Consult your healthcare provider before making any changes to diet and exercise.