Replacing Refined Grains with Whole Grains for Heart Health


We should really be eating whole grains, but refined grains make life so easy. We pay for that ease though, with ongoing poor health due to the lack of nutrition from consuming so much white flour and other refined grains.

A new study published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) found that consuming a high number of refined grains, such as croissants and white bread, is associated with a higher risk of major cardiovascular disease, stroke and death.

The Prospective Urban Rural Epidemiology (PURE) study has been examining diets from diverse populations in low-, middle- and highincome countries around the world. Over 16 years of analysis of 137,130 participants in 21 countries, the

researchers found the intake of refined grains and added sugars have greatly increased over the years. A report of the PURE research in the BMJ was recently published by the Kerry Health and Nutrition Institute (KHNI).

The KHNI article acknowledged that grains in the research were categorised into three groups: refined grains, whole grains and white rice. Refined grains included goods made with refined (e.g. white) flour, including white bread, pasta/noodles, breakfast cereals, crackers, and bakery products/desserts containing refined grains. Whole grains included whole grain flours (e.g. buckwheat) and intact or cracked whole grains (e.g. steel cut oats).

The study found that having more than seven servings of refined grains, or over 350 grams, per day was associated with a 27 per cent greater risk for early death, 33 percent greater risk for heart disease and 47 per cent greater risk for stroke.

“This study re-affirms previous work indicating a healthy diet includes limiting overly processed and refined foods,” states KHNI.

No significant adverse health effects were found with consuming whole grains or white rice.

Refined grains were defined in the study as wheat grain products or flours that have been modified to remove the bran and germ from the grain. Refined grains are commonly found in foods like white bread, pasta/noodles, breakfast cereals, crackers, bakery products/desserts, tortillas, and grits.

Processing grains to remove the bran and germ layers removes the fibre, vitamins, minerals, and other components potentially linked to health from the grain. This means that the numerous health benefits associated with whole grain intake, like heart health, digestive health, immunity, and weight management, will not be found in foods made with refined grains.

The study suggests eating whole grain foods like brown rice and barley, and having fewer cereal grains and refined wheat products, can improve health.

Reducing the overall consumption of refined grains and having better quality carbohydrates is essential for optimal health outcomes.

Currently, whole grain intake is much lower than recommendations globally.

The nutrition experts recognise that whole-grain options are increasing, oatbased dairy alternatives are becoming more common, and KHNI is of the view that the food and beverage industry can take the responsibility of helping countries to be healthier by using whole grains in products people eat daily, like hamburger buns, sandwich bread, and tortillas, desserts, pizza crust, and savoury snacks.

However, you have a responsibility to yourself to improve or maintain your health, and so you can make at least half the grains in your diet whole grains. More examples of whole grains include barley, brown rice, bulgur (cracked wheat), millet, oatmeal and popcorn.

Eating a variety of whole grains not

only ensures that you get more healthpromoting nutrients, but also helps make your meals and snacks more interesting.

The asserts that it’s not always easy to tell what kind of grains a product has, especially bread. For instance, a brown bread isn’t necessarily whole wheat — the brown hue may come from added colouring. Health experts advise to check product labels or the Nutrition Facts panel – look for the word “whole” on the package, and make sure whole grains appear among the first items in the ingredient list.

The health experts also advise that if all of the grains you eat are whole grains, you may need to take extra care to get sufficient folic acid, a B vitamin.

While most refined-grain products are fortified, whole grains are not typically fortified with folic acid.

Look for whole grains that have been fortified with folic acid, such as some ready-to-eat cereals. Eat plenty of other folate-rich foods, including fruits, vegetables and legumes. Folic acid is especially important for women during pregnancy.

Tips to add more whole grains to your meals and snacks (from the mayoclinic.


• Enjoy breakfasts that include wholegrain cereals, such as whole-wheat bran flakes (some bran flakes may just have the bran, not the whole grain), shredded wheat or oatmeal.

• Use whole-wheat toast or wholegrain bagels instead of plain bagels. Substitute low-fat muffins made with whole-grain cereals, such as oatmeal or others, for pastries.

• Make sandwiches using whole-grain breads or rolls. Swap out white-flour tortillas with whole-wheat versions.

• Replace white rice with quinoa, brown rice, wild rice, barley or bulgur.

• Feature wild rice or barley in soups, stews, casseroles and salads.

• Add whole grains, such as cooked brown rice or whole-grain breadcrumbs, to ground meat or poultry for extra bulk.

• Use rolled oats or crushed wholewheat bran cereal in recipes instead of dry breadcrumbs.


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