Whole-Grain Myths

Oxygen separates the wheat from the chaff on whole grains.

Photo: Getty Images/iStockphoto

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Myth:Not eating grains and going low carb are great ways to lose weight.

Truth: Eliminating entire food groups, such as grains, is not only hard to do but also can lead to nutrient deficiencies. A diet that is hard to sustain is impractical and unnecessary for weight loss and almost always results in gaining weight back when the elimination period is over. Research out of Australia found that people on a low-carb diet for one year were angrier, depressed and more confused than those following a higher-carb diet. “As long as your carbohydrates are high quality with an emphasis on fruits, vegetables, beans and whole grains, eating normal to higher amounts of carbohydrates is a great way to keep your energy and zest for living revving strong,” says Cynthia Harriman, director of food and nutrition strategies for Oldways and the Whole Grains Council.

Myth: Wheat is the reason so many Americans are overweight.

Truth: While eating too much of anything can make you fat, wheat plays no special role in putting on the pounds. Being overweight and obese is never the fault of eating too much of one food but rather a result of lifestyle and total diet. Other countries have much higher per-capita wheat consumption but much lower rates of overweight citizens. The French, for example, consume nearly twice as much wheat per person as Americans but have about one-third our obesity rate.

Myth:We are eating more wheat than we ever have in history.

Truth: Wheat consumption in the U.S. hit a peak in the 1870s at almost 230 pounds consumed per person per year. Wheat consumption declined steadily until the early 1970s when fast-food restaurants made more wheat-based foods readily available. In the last decade, wheat consumption has again been on a steady decline. It is currently at about half its peak.

Myth:Eating gluten-free gives athletes an advantage.

Truth: Athletes who go gluten-free without having a medical reason to do so may fall short on energy, especially if they’re not replacing gluten-containing items with other rich sources of carbohydrates, fiber, iron and B vitamins. Furthermore, there is no evidence that gluten-free eating offers any performance benefits over a balanced diet that contains gluten. Even those who can’t eat gluten grains — because of celiac disease or gluten intolerance — have many grain choices because most grains naturally are gluten-free. The only four grains that aren’t gluten-free are wheat, barley, rye and triticale, which is a wheat-rye hybrid.

To add more whole grains to your plate, check out these great recipes!

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