So I’ve been reading “The Mediterranean Prescription” by Angelo Acquista, M.D. This book is terrific, not only as an informational source but also as a repository for simple and healthy recipes (particularly suitable for pescetarians). Among all the popular diets – Atkins, Macrobiotic, Paleo, The Zone, etc. – I’ve always been an advocate of the Mediterranean diet, believing it to be the only diet that is actually sustainable in the long run and that will work wonders for your body without sacrificing on taste.
Extracting from his book, Angelo recommends eating a full 8 servings of whole grains each day for optimal health. This can be in the form of whole-grain breads, pasta, cereal, rice, bulgur, couscous, polenta, and many others. One serving is equal to one ounce of dry grain (which equals one slice of bread, 1/2 cup cooked grains or pasta, or 3/4 cup dry or 1/2 cup cooked cereal).
Below, I have set out to write about the “whole-grain advantage”. But before I do so, a distinction must be made between whole-grained and refined-grain foods. A whole grain consists of three botanically defined parts: the bran, the germ, and the endosperm. The bran and germ contain many nutrients and phytochemicals and a lot of fiber, whereas the endosperm is largely starch and provides mostly energy (read: calories). Milling strips off most of the bran and germ and pulverises the endosperm. The resulting refined grains are digested more quickly than whole-grain products and thus tend to cause more rapid and larger increases in blood sugar and glucose.
Intake of whole grains, especially whole-grain bread, is associated with a broad array of health benefits.
- Studies indicate a 20-30% decrease in coronary heart disease occurs with a daily intake of three or more servings of whole-grain foods, likely due to the fiber content, as well as the antioxidant activity of the phytochemical in whole grains.
- Type 2 diabetes is also less frequent amongst people who eat a diet rich in whole grains
- Insulin resistance, the asymptomatic precursor to diabetes, is ameliorated by whole-grain foods as well.
- Even mortality rates are lower amongst whole-grain eaters. One study revealed that all-cause mortality was 23% lower in the group that ate the most whole grains when compared to the group that ate the least.
Contrast this to refined grains which are typically calorie-rich and nutrient-poor. High consumption of refined grains is also associated with increased risk of atherosclerosis, coronary artery disease, and all-cause mortality. Another convincing reason to ditch the “white stuff” altogether.