A study recently published in the Journal of Nutrition found that increasing intake of whole grains and decreasing intake of refined grains was associated with heart and metabolic health risk factors.
A whole grain is a grain of any type of cereal or pseudograin that contains the germ, endosperm, and bran, as opposed to refined grains that retain only the endosperm. Whole grains are a source of carbohydrates, multiple nutrients and dietary fiber. Examples of whole grains include brown rice, whole wheat bread, quinoa, farro, buckwheat, and sorghum.
Observational studies have found that increased consumption of whole grains is associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease, obesity, type 2 diabetes, and high blood pressure. Although several factors increase a person’s risk of developing these chronic degenerative diseases, researchers have found that diet is particularly important because it is a modifiable risk factor.. One important strategy to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease is to replace refined grains (such as white rice, white flour, couscous, and refined pasta) with whole grains.
To understand the relationship between habitual consumption of whole grains and changes in cardio-metabolic risk factors, Nicola McKeown, with the USDA Jean Mayer Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University, and colleagues conducted a prospective study using data collected from the National Heart Center. Lung and Blood Study Group at Framingham Heart Institute.
Approximately every four years, participants undergo standardized medical history and physical examinations. Data from the fifth through ninth study examinations were included in these analyses. The Harvard Semi-Quantitative Food Frequency Questionnaire was used to assess dietary intake, and the Whole Grain Database enabled researchers to quantify grams of whole grain consumption per day. Refined grain consumption is based on daily servings of the following food items: ready-to-eat refined cold breakfast cereals, cooked breakfast cereals (not oatmeal), white bread, English muffins, bagels, muffins, crackers, white rice, pasta, pancakes, waffles, crackers, and pizza. Cardiometabolic risk factors included waist circumference, systolic blood pressure, diastolic blood pressure, blood lipids, and blood glucose.
A higher intake of whole grains was associated with smaller increases in waist circumference, fasting glucose concentration and systolic blood pressure every four years. This association with waist circumference was stronger among females. Although the observed association between whole grain consumption and waist circumference was relatively small, even small gains in abdominal fat can influence disease risk. A higher intake of whole grains was also associated with a greater increase in good HDL cholesterol and a decrease in triglyceride concentrations, although the results showed a complex relationship with waist circumference. In contrast, a higher intake of refined grains prospectively was associated with higher gains in abdominal obesity and triglyceride concentrations.
Bottom line? Choose whole grains whenever you can. The effects can be impactful on your health and help reduce the risk and reduce the severity of cardiovascular disease.
Question and Answer
Q: Why do onions make you cry?
A: The reason we cry because of onions can be traced back to the soil. Onions are part of the Allium genus, along with garlic, leeks and chives, and they absorb sulfur from the soil. When onions are cut, the cells break down, releasing the contents inside. This allows chemicals that were previously separated by the cell membrane to combine with each other and with the air. Enzymes and chemicals react to sulfide amino acids within cells to produce volatile sulfur gas. This gas is released by the onion and reacts with the natural water in your eye to form sulfuric acid, which causes a familiar stinging sensation. It helps to chill the onions for a few minutes in the refrigerator because the enzymes are less reactive when they are cold. Cooking also reduces enzyme activity.
Brisk fall mornings and evenings may have you dusting off the slow cooker and thinking about soup. Here’s an easy, budget-friendly red lentil and chickpea soup that’s packed with flavor and packed with nutrients, including protein from the lentils and chickpeas.
Red lentil and chickpea soup
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 finely chopped onion
One 1-inch piece of fresh ginger, grated
1 tablespoon kosher salt, divided
2 teaspoons smoked paprika
6 cups of low-sodium vegetable broth
1 1/2 pounds baby squash, cut into cubes
One 15-ounce can unsalted chickpeas (garbanzo beans), drained and rinsed
One 14.5-ounce can of diced tomatoes, unsalted, undrained
1 cup dried red lentils
Chopped fresh coriander (optional)
Heat olive oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat. Add onion, ginger and a teaspoon of salt. Cook, stirring often, until tender, about 5 minutes. Add sweet pepper. Cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Transfer onion mixture to a 6-quart slow cooker. Add broth, squash, chickpeas, tomatoes, lentils, and remaining 2 teaspoons salt. Cover and cook over high heat until the lentils are tender, 3-4 hours. When serving, pour the soup into plates and garnish with coriander, as desired.
Per serving: 290 calories, 13 g protein, 51 g carbohydrates, 4 g fat (0 saturated), 10 g fiber, 7 g sugars (0 added), 722 mg sodium.
(Recipe from “Cooking Light: Soups and Stews”)
Charlene Fargo is a registered dietitian at SIU College of Medicine in Springfield, Illinois, and the current president of the Illinois Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. For comments or questions, contact her at (email protected) or follow her on Twitter @NutritionRD. To learn more about Charlyn Fargo and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.
Photo credit: Eric McLean on Unsplash