If you could make a simple diet change to drop more pounds and body fat, would you? Switching from refined-wheat foods, such as white bread or pasta, to whole-grain versions can boost your weight loss by 35% and help you melt nearly 50% more body fat.
In a study, 79 overweight or obese postmenopausal women were randomly assigned to eat a diet containing refined or whole-grain wheat products. After 12 weeks, both groups lost weight (7.9 pounds for the whole-wheat group and 5.9 pounds for the refined-wheat group). The whole-wheat group also shed 3% body fat, whereas the refined-wheat eaters shed 2.1%.
Even more dramatic was the result for heart health: The refined-wheat eaters saw a whopping 5% increase in their total and LDL (bad) cholesterol levels. No changes were found in the whole-grain group.
That's great news, except only 5% of Americans actually consume the minimum recommended serving for whole grains -- three (1-ounce) equivalents per day, such as an ounce of dry pasta or a slice of bread. Still, a whopping 92% of consumers say they believe whole-grain breads are much healthier than white bread, according to The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics' Nutrition and You: Trends 2011 survey. They're right. Processing grains strips away up to two-thirds of many of the nutrients naturally found in whole grains.
Now that you've been persuaded (right?) to eat three or more servings of whole grains a day, how do you know you're choosing the right foods? "Be sure the word 'whole' is on the ingredient statement, such as 'whole wheat,'" says food scientist Joy Dubost, RD, CSSD.
Also look on the packaging for the seal from the Whole Grains Council. "If a product bears the 100% Whole Grain Stamp, then all of its ingredients are whole grains," Dubost says. "There's a minimum requirement of 16 grams -- a full serving." If a product bears the basic Whole Grain Stamp, it contains at least 8 grams (half a serving) and may also include some refined grain.
Don't think you're stuck chowing down on slices of whole-wheat bread every day. "Half of your intake of grains should be from a variety of whole-grain sources," Dubost says. Throw some sauce on that whole-wheat pasta and before long you'll be losing, not gaining, body fat.
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