It’s a well-known fact that consuming whole grains has positive health effects, like reducing an individual’s risk of type 2 diabetes. Whole grain foods are defined as consisting of all three main components of the grain kernel, which are the endosperm, the germ, and the bran. But does the type of whole grain food matter? What about how much whole grain foods you consume?
A study, which was conducted by researchers from the Chalmers University of Technology and the Danish Cancer Society Research Center, investigated whether the type of whole grain is important in protecting against diabetes as well as the effect of the amount of whole grains that a person eats.
Whole grains help prevent diabetes
This study confirmed previous research findings that emphasize the importance of whole grains for prevention of type 2 diabetes. The link between diabetes prevention has been known for a long time, but previous studies did not investigate the role of different whole grain sources as well as how much whole grain is needed in the diet to reduce the risk of developing diabetes.
“When it comes to whole grains, the research results are clear: among the many studies which have been made, in varied groups of people around the world, there hasn’t been a single study which has shown negative health effects,” said Rikard Landberg, a professor at the Division of Food and Nutrition Science, and the senior researcher on the study.
Is the type of whole grain important in preventing diabetes?
The study, which was conducted in Denmark, wanted to take a look at whole grain sources other than wheat.
“Most studies similar to ours have previously been conducted in the USA, where people mainly get their whole grain from wheat,” said Landeberg said. “We wanted to see if there was a difference between different cereals. One might expect there would be, because they contain different types of dietary fibre and bioactive substances, which have been shown to influence risk factors for type 2 diabetes.”
This study found that it does not matter whether a person chooses to consume their whole grain amount through rye, oats, or wheat. As long as the food is wholegrain, it can prevent type 2 diabetes.
Examples of whole grains to incorporate into your diet:
- Common cereals: wheat, rye, oats, corn, maize, rice, millet and sorghum
- wholegrain couscous
- wholegrain bread
- wholegrain pasta
The amount of whole grains you eat is more important
While it does not matter which whole grains a person chooses to consume, the amount they consume is extremely important.
The study, which was uncommonly large and long, with 55,000 participants over 15 years, divided participants into four different groups based on how much whole grain they reported eating during their normal daily lives. The group with the highest consumption amount ate at least 50 grams of whole grain each day.
The group that reported the highest whole-grain food consumption over those 15 years had the lowest rate of development of type 2 diabetes. The proportion of those who developed type 2 diabetes increased for each group that had eaten less whole grain foods.
For those that had the highest wholegrain intake, the diabetes risk was 34% lower for men and 22% lower for women compared to those in the group that ate the least amount of whole grain.
Unfortunately for people in the U.S., the amount of wholegrain consumed in Denmark far surpassed the amount consumed in the states.
“If you divided American participants into 4 groups, the group that ate the most whole grain would be the same level as the group that ate the least whole grain in Denmark,” Landberg said.
How much whole grain foods should you eat?
The U.S. guidelines for whole grain recommendations vary based on age and gender. To check out how many servings you should have per day, you can view the list here. The guidelines for a serving are for products where all the grain ingredients are whole grains.
The U.S. Guidelines deﬁne a serving of whole grain as any of the following amounts:
- ½ cup cooked rice, bulgur, pasta, or cooked cereal
- 1 ounce dry pasta, rice or other dry grain
- 1 slice bread
- 1 small muﬃn (weighing one ounce)
- 1 cup ready-to-eat cereal ﬂakes
You don’t have to avoid carbohydrates to be healthy
“Carbohydrates are a very varied group of foodstuffs, including sugar, starch, and fibre,” Landberg said.
Landberg suggests that we should discuss carbohydrates more individually than as a group because they have very varied effects on our health. Carefully choosing the carbohydrates you consume is an important aspect of clean eating.
Jennifer Fabiano is an SEO reporter at Ladders.