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Whole Cereals and Weight Loss
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Whole Cereals and Weight Loss

Whole Cereals and Weight Loss


1. Thou Shalt Eat Your Whole Cereals

Cereals are the foundation of healthy eating and, contrary to what many people think in this age of low-carb craze, are an excellent choice for weight loss.

Whole cereals are low in fat and calories and very rich in nutrients. They are so valuable, the FDA allows health claims to be placed on foods that contain at least 51% whole-grains (whole wheat, whole oats, corn, barley, and rice), stating that they may reduce the risk of heart disease. It is no wonder they are at the base of the food pyramid, meaning we should eat more of this food group than any other. The health benefits of cereals are amazing. You will read more about them later.

Health Benefits of Cereals

The evidence for the heart protective effects of whole-grains is impressive. Four separate studies, involving a total of over 65,000 men and 109,000 women in the US and Finland in the 1990s, showed that as consumption of cereal fiber or whole-grain foods increases, the incidence of coronary heart disease declines.

One of the largest of these studies, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 1999, studied the relationship between diet and heart disease in 75,000 women between the ages of 38 and 63, who were followed for 10 years. The researchers found that an increased intake of whole-grains was protective against heart disease. For every serving of whole-grains eaten per day, the risk of death from heart disease was reduced by 9%. Women who consumed the most whole-grains - nearly three servings a day - had a more than 30% lower risk of heart disease than the women who consumed less than one serving a day. Whole-grain breakfast cereals, brown rice, and bran were especially protective.

The Adventist Health Study, performed on 31,000 white Seventh-day Adventists in California, has shown the same protective effect. The risk of coronary heart disease was reduced by almost 50% in those eating primarily whole-grain breads and cereals, compared to those that ate mostly white bread and refined cereals.

Mechanisms of Protection

A multitude of mechanisms are thought to be responsible for the beneficial effects of whole-grains for cardiovascular disease. These include:

1. Whole-grains are good sources of dietary fiber, vitamin E, and folate.

  • Fiber seems to be one of the major protective factors in whole cereals, so much so that an increase in total dietary fiber intake of only 10g per day produced a reduction of heart attack risk of almost 20% in men.
  • Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant, found in the germ of the cereal kernel. It can prevent the oxidation of the LDL-cholesterol, thus decreasing its damaging effect on the blood vessels.
  • Folate is another important essential nutrient. It's relevance for heart disease protection comes from its ability to decrease homocysteine levels. High levels of homocysteine indicate increased heart disease risk. Again, bran is the place where folate is to be found in cereals.

2. Many other antioxidants, phytochemicals and micronutrients in whole-grains that may have protective effects.

  • Selenium, for example, is a micronutrient with powerful antioxidant properties, and whole grains are good sources of selenium.
  • Dietary copper deficiency is thought to contribute to arteriosclerosis and other cardiovascular problems, including the premature loss of the elasticity of aorta, the main artery that that receives blood from the heart. Whole-grain foods are valuable sources of copper.
  • Whole-grain foods also contain many phytochemicals, such as phenolic compounds (ferulic acid), that play important roles in heart disease prevention through antioxidant and other partially known mechanisms.

You have to be careful, though. Most of the cereals we eat today are ready-to-eat, processed products. Which means you have to learn how to read the nutrition labels (if you haven't been doing so) and to make the right selections when shopping. Some of the good selections from this group are whole wheat breads, rice, oats and unsweetened breakfast cereals. Also, experts recommend at least half of all grains consumed to be whole grains.

How much grains should I eat?

In general, it is recommended (see mypyramid.gov) that we should eat at least 3 oz-equivalents of grains every day. The exact amount varies from person to person. To find out exactly how much you should eat, please open a weight loss account on our site and follow the instructions..

How much is one grain oz-equivalent?

In general, 1 slice of bread, 1 cup of ready-to-eat cereal, or 1/2 cup of cooked rice, pasta, or cooked cereal can be considered as 1 ounce equivalent from the grains group. Remember, at least half of all grains consumed should be whole grains.

Natural Weight Loss

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Grain Recipes

There are many websites offering healthy recipes. Although we do not recommend any such site in particular, we advise you to pay attention to the ingredients they use. Ideally, a weight-friendly recipe should list all the ingredients and also the caloric intake per serving.

Here is an example of a healthy, tasty grain-based recipe:

High Fiber, Omega-3 Rich Granola