One thing I frequently hear from clients and gym members when I ask them about their nutrition is that they stick to white over wheat. Usually it sounds something like this, “Oh, I eat pretty healthy. I don’t eat anything white. I eat wheat bread and brown rice.” Then, they sort of sit back and wait for my accolades. Herein lies a great problem in the Standard American Diet. Whole grains have been all over advertisements, labeled on boxes, and just in general touted as being superior foods, that we’ve come to believe our diets are doing well as long as we’re eating a lot of them.
Beware of health halos! The front of a box of anything in the grocery store is 100% marketing! When you see a product that is proudly boasting its large quantities of whole grains, chances are it’s trying to hide something else (Old Fashioned Plain Oatmeal might be the one exception that I can think of). Take a look at the ingredient list. Are there ingredients that are completely unpronounceable? Do they look more like a list of chemicals than actual ingredients you would find in your own kitchen? If so, leave that box right there on the shelf…it’s doing you more good as a pretty decoration in the grocery aisle than hanging out in your body.
Secondly, consider the fact that “wheat” is a word that is used with far too much authority. Remember, even “white” bread is made from wheat. Chances are good that wheat bread isn’t actually as far from white as we may think. Perhaps you have not been fooled by marketing ploy, and you’ve reached for 100% whole wheat or whole grain bread. This is probably a better option but still may not be quite as nutritious as you may think. For one, there may still be sugar and caramel color hanging out in those well-preserved loaves of bread. Additionally, all it takes for a food to be labeled “whole grain” is for the germ and bran of the wheat to remain intact prior to grinding it into flour. However, it is far more nutritious to reach for a grain product that has not been converted to flour at all. Our bodies break them down more slowly, absorbing more nutrients, and helping us feel full for longer thanks to the extra fiber.
The makers of whole grain foods particularly want us to believe that we should be eating more whole grains. While I certainly hope you are choosing whole grain and intact grains over refined grains, less is usually more when it comes to these carbohydrates. Anyone who knows me knows how much I love bread and baked goods! However, I’ve come to recognize that we need to eat these in quite a bit more moderation than we tend to think…even if it claims to be “whole grain!”
Here is a link to an article and podcast by Monica Reinagel that I think cuts through the health halo of whole grains quite well. Consider subscribing to her weekly podcasts for additional nutrition information. In five to ten minutes a week, you could be saving your body AND your sanity from all the nutritional myths out there. http://nutritiondiva.quickanddirtytips.com/the-truth-about-whole-grains.aspx
Now that we’ve discussed the benefits and warnings about whole grains, you may be realizing you need to cut down on your whole grains a bit (particularly, if you’re looking to lose weight and/or tone up. If that’s the case, consider the video about spaghetti squash located on the right-hand side of the page of the link above. Cut a serious amount of calories and carbohydrates from your dinner with this simple substitution. I chose a store-bought marinara sauce that was low in sugar (yes, tomato sauces tend to pack in a good amount of sugar–check the label!) and contained all pronounceable ingredients. Then I browned some ground elk meat (complements of my client) and added that to the sauce to give the meal a boost of protein. Enjoy!