How can eating whole grains help me lose weight?

Harris H. McIlwain, MD

Whole grains, including some breakfast cereals (bran flakes and shredded wheat), brown rice, barley, bran, bulgur, and oatmeal, actually help keep blood sugar levels steady, helping to reduce the risk of metabolic syndrome, which is associated with pro-inflammatory markers in the body. Several large studies have also shown that intake of whole grains, as opposed to refined grains, is inversely associated with weight gain and body fat distribution.

Whole-grain foods are high in fiber and water content. It is thought that whole grains may protect against weight gain through several mechanisms that involve effects on satiety (feeling of being full), glucose and insulin responses, and antioxidant properties.


Diet for a Pain-Free Life: A Revolutionary Plan to Lose Weight, Stop Pain, Sleep Better and Feel Great in 21 Days, ADA...sound nutritional, delicious..a godsend to pain sufferers.

More About this Book

Diet for a Pain-Free Life: A Revolutionary Plan to Lose Weight, Stop Pain, Sleep Better and Feel Great in 21 Days, ADA...sound nutritional, delicious..a godsend to pain sufferers.

Do you wake up each morning aching with joint or muscle pain? Have you been trying to lose stubborn belly fat for years? Do you wish you could be active without pain medications? Look no further:...
Amy Jamieson-Petonic
Nutrition & Dietetics

Whole grains can provide additional vitamins, minerals and fiber that can assist you with weight loss. Fiber, found in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains (such as 100% whole grain bread, pasta and cereal and brown rice) tend to make us feel full and take in less calories…  A 3500 calorie deficit will lead to one pound of weight loss.

Sharon Palmer
Nutrition & Dietetics

Eating whole grains can help you lose weight in many ways. Whole grains are very high in fiber and require more chewing time; thus they increase your saliva and gastric juice flow and distend your stomach. In addition, whole grains are more slowly digested and absorbed, so that they produce slow, gradual increases in blood sugar levels that lead to making you feel full for longer. That's why it's really hard to overeat something like oatmeal, but very easy to eat something made of white flour, such as French bread. Studies have shown that eating more whole grains can help you lose weight, as well as maintain a healthy weight. 

Jessica Crandall
Nutrition & Dietetics
Eating more whole grains throughout the day can assist in weight loss because of the fiber associated with the product. The fiber will help keep us full longer and will take longer to digest than refined grain products. Carbohydrates in moderation are important as well, and keeping the portion to a quarter of the plate according to the My Plate guidelines.
More related information: Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
Karen Ansel
Nutrition & Dietetics

Whole grains promote weight loss in several ways. Because whole grains are made from complex carbohydrates they are digested slowly so they help keep you full longer than quickly digested processed grains like white bread, rice and pasta. What's more, they actually take extra energy to break down. When researchers at Pomona College in California fed volunteers equal calorie sandwiches on either white bread or whole grain bread the volunteers that ate the whole grain sandwiches required twice as many calories to digest their sandwiches. 

While it's easy to get whole grains at breakfast from foods like cereal and whole wheat toast, it's not always as easy to get them later in the day so you need to strategize. Order your sandwich at lunch on whole wheat bread or in a whole wheat tortilla or have a burrito bowl with brown rice, instead of white rice. At dinner, experiment with different grains like whole wheat couscous and pasta, quinoa or polenta. You'll find you stay fuller and feel less hungry.

Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD
Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease)
Whole grains have many beneficial effects that may help you lose weight. The fiber they contain helps fill you up and may interact with beneficial bacteria in your gut in ways that help curb hunger. Whole grains also help keep your blood sugar levels stable.

Studies show that people who eat more whole grains tend to have less body fat and gain less weight over time compared with people who rarely eat whole grains. In addition to whole wheat, good sources of whole grains include oatmeal, whole cornmeal, brown rice, amaranth, barley, buckwheat, millet, quinoa and rye.
Angela Lemond
Nutrition & Dietetics

Whole grains tend to have more fiber and fiber decreases the rate at which your body digests food. This may help you feel satiated longer. It is recommended that adults consume 48 grams of whole grains daily. A good source of whole grain is any food that contains at least 8 grams of whole grains. However, the listing of how much whole grains a food contains is not currently required to be on a food package.

Marjorie Nolan Cohn
Nutrition & Dietetics

Whole grains have more fiber than other grains. For example, a slice of whole grain bread has 3-6 grams of fiber where white bread has 0-1 grams of fiber. Fiber is known to be filling. This is true because fiber can’t be digested. Humans don’t have the enzymes that breakdown fiber, therefore it moves through your digestive tract undigested, this provides bulk and helps you feel full longer. If you feel full longer after meal you are more likely to eat less over the course of the day.

Judy Caplan
Nutrition & Dietetics
Whole grains keep you full and are loaded with fiber. The fiber in whole grains cause a slower rise in blood sugar and does not lead to sudden dips which can cause sugar cravings. You need carbohydrates for energy but you need to limit your servings, even of whole grains, to lose weight.

Continue Learning about Carbohydrates and Weight Loss

Can You Eat Potatoes on a Diet?
Can You Eat Potatoes on a Diet?
Which starchy, satisfying food can you keep on the menu even when you're trying to lose weight? Potatoes. Researchers tested this very theory in a st...
Read More
Can I eat carbohydrates and still lose weight?
Erin PalinskiErin Palinski
Weight loss can be achieved and maintained without giving up your favorite carbohydrates. A calorie ...
More Answers
If I am carbohydrate counting, how much beans, peas or lentils can I eat?
Jennifer ShawJennifer Shaw
Everyone needs a different amount of carbohydrate, so it's important to meet with a dietitian to fin...
More Answers
What Is Carb-Cycling?
What Is Carb-Cycling?

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.