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Are Whole Grains Always Best?

bagettes bread pasta refined grains whole grains Jan 16, 2023

Did you ever wonder exactly how Wonder Bread built strong bodies 12 ways?

We did too! But that's the subject of another newsletter!

Here's our topic du jour: 

“Whole grains are always better than refined grains.”

As nutrition maxims go, this one seems rock solid. Most everyone agrees with it, no matter what their nutrition camp - even if said camp is anti-grain.

But is it really a universal food truth—one that applies to everyone, all the time?

Are whole grains always best?

Short answer: No.

Also might be an unpopular answer; after all, whole grains are closer to a "whole food" than the refined kind.

Unlike refined grains, they preserve the nutrition-packed bran and germ—which contain phytonutrients, antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and fiber.

And that provides a host of benefits, as you can see in the chart below.

Whole grains:

✅ Are rich in fiber, vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients

✅ May reduce risk for diabetes, cancer, and heart disease

✅ Protect against inflammation

✅ Are satisfying

✅ Improve digestion and overall gut health

Some examples of whole grains are brown rice, barley (my favorite due to the incredibly high fiber content), quinoa (technically a seed, but classified as a whole grain - great protein and fiber!), and steel cut oats.

My go to breads are usually Dave's Killer breads or Ezekiel sprouted breads.

Make no mistake:

You shouldn’t necessarily eschew your sprouted grain bread for Wonder.

Nor is this a suggestion that refined grains are just as nutritious as whole grains.

HOWEVER: While whole grains are usually a better choice than refined grains, it’s not as straightforward as many people think.

It all depends on who’s doing the eating—and their goals, preferences, and health status.

For certain folks, under certain conditions, refined grains can actually offer advantages over whole grains.

That’s because refined grains:

✅ May be fortified with vitamins, fiber, and protein

✅ Are easier to digest

✅ Can be easier or quicker to prepare

✅ Are more palatable for some people

✅ May be an important part of food culture, such as pasta in Italy, baguettes in France, or white rice in Japan

I know for me, if I have been eating refined grains like white bread or pasta, I can feel the inflammation in my body the next day. Learning to listen to your body can be helpful in knowing when you may have passed your "threshold".

Quick Takeaways:

▶️ If you want to lose fat, consume whole grains most of the time. They’ll help you feel full longer.

▶️ If you’re trying to pack on muscle, allow for some refined grains, especially if you’re struggling to eat enough.

▶️ If you’re recovering from a stomach bug 🤮, use refined white rice or white bread toast to settle your stomach. Remember the BRAT diet - banana, rice, applesauce and toast. 

▶️ If you have GI issues, such as IBS, research shows whole grains are generally well-tolerated, except during flare-ups (when refined grains may be less aggravating).

▶️ If your diet is mostly (80-90 percent) whole food, there’s probably room for refined grains if you enjoy them.

The goal for most people is a healthier life. That means a nutritional plan that you can sustain. If you can keep your nutritional whole food goals 80-90% of the time, you can enjoy a refined grain on occasion.

Want more info or help putting together a plan that will work for your life? Please get in touch with me today and we can create one for you.

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