Recent ground-breaking research has finally dispelled the myth that eating grain foods causes weight gain and furthermore, suggests that grains are much more nutritious than most people think. The research comes from the Grains & Legumes Nutrition Council who conducted an analysis of the most recent National Nutrition Survey, which looked at the diets of over 9,000 adults (1). Results showed that consumption of core grain foods, including both white and wholegrain bread and pasta, was not linked to waist circumference or BMI.
A range of factors that can affect weight status were taken into account in the study, including physical activity levels and whether the study subject was on a diet with the data still showing that people eating six or more serves of core grain foods per day, have similar waistline measurements and BMI’s than those who restrict their grain intake.
Almost one in two Australians limit wheat and other grain foods due to this misperception that foods such as bread and pasta cause weight gain (2), so it’s no surprise that Australians are missing out on the additional health benefits of grain foods. This avoidance has been driven by the recent ‘gluten free’ and ‘free from’ trends, with 21% of people in the Asia-Pacific region stating that a gluten free label influences their purchasing behaviour (3).
In Australia in particular, this has led to a 30% reduction in the consumption of core grain foods over 2 years (2), due to a belief that grain foods, even high fibre grain foods such as whole grain bread and wholemeal pasta, have no place in a healthy diet. And young women are missing out the most, with just 8.5% of 19-50 year old females meeting core grain food recommendations (2).
There are many benefits to be had when consuming a diet rich in core grain foods, particularly whole grain and high fibre choices. Whole grain wheat and bran-based grain foods contain insoluble fibre which promotes regular digestive function alongside fermentable dietary fibre in grains which behave like prebiotics, encouraging the growth of beneficial bacteria in the digestive system. So grains are good for your gut health too!
In addition, those with higher intakes of whole grain and high fibre grain foods are less likely to gain weight over time (4&5), have heart disease (6&7), experience low grade inflammation (8-12), suffer an early death (13) and are more likely to report being in excellent health. By cutting out core grain foods believing it will keep them slim, people may be putting their health at risk. Find out more of the health benefits of whole grains here.
Michelle Broom, General Manager of the Grains & Legumes Nutrition Council, explains, “This new study adds to the evidence that core grain foods are an important part of a healthy, balanced diet. By meeting the recommended six daily serves, at least half of which should be whole grain, we can enjoy the many benefits of core grain consumption, without any difference in BMI or waist circumference.”
It’s easy to get your recommended six serves a day; with 2 slices of whole grain toast for breakfast, a salad with a cup of quinoa for lunch and half a cup of pasta with a tomato sauce for dinner. For delicious ideas to up your grain intake, including this deliciously different Indian Spiced Millet Pilaf or a Quinoa & Wheat Berry Tabouleh visit the GLNC website.
For more information on the number of grain serves recommended for different age and gender groups download our factsheet.
1. Nutrition Research Australia. Secondary Analysis of the 2011-12 National Nutrition and Physical Activity Survey. Submitted for publication. 2015
2. Grains & Legumes Nutrition Council (GLNC). 2014 Australian Grains and Legumes Consumption & Attitudinal Report. Unpublished. 2014
3. The Nielsen Company. We Are What We Eat: Healthy Eating Trends Around the World. http://www.nielsen.com/content/dam/nielsenglobal/
4. Williams PG, Grafenauer SJ, O'Shea JE. Cereal Grains, Legumes, and Weight Management: A Comprehensive Review of the Ccientific Evidence. Nutrition Reviews. 2008;66(4):171-82.
5. Mozaffarian D, Hao T, Rimm EB, Willett WC, Hu FB. Changes in Diet and Lifestyle and Long-Term Weight Gain in Women and Men. New England Journal of Medicine. 2011;364(25):2392-404.
6. Tang G, Wang D, Long J, Yang F, Si L. Meta-Analysis of the Association Between Whole Grain Intake and Coronary Heart Disease Risk. American Journal of Cardiology. 2015;115(5):625-9.
7. Barclay AW, Petocz P, McMillan-Price J, Flood VM, Prvan T, Mitchell P, et al. Glycemic Index, Glycemic Load, and Chronic Disease Risk—A Meta-Analysis of Observational Studies. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2008;87(3):627-37.
8. Lefevre M, Jonnalagadda S. Effect of Whole Grains on Markers of Subclinical Inflammation. Nutrition Reviews. 2012;70(7):387-96.
9. Galisteo M, Duarte J, Zarzuelo A. Effects of Dietary Fibers on Disturbances Clustered in the Metabolic Syndrome. Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry.19(2):71-84.
10. King DE, Mainous AG, Egan BM, Woolson RF, Geesey ME. Fiber and C-Reactive Protein in Diabetes, Hypertension, and Obesity. Diabetes Care. 2005;28(6):1487-9.
11. King DE, Egan BM, Geesey ME. Relation of Dietary Fat and Fiber to Elevation of C-Reactive Protein. American Journal of Cardiology.92(11):1335-9.
12. Ajani UA, Ford ES, Mokdad AH. Dietary Fiber and C-Reactive Protein: Findings from National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey Data. The Journal of Nutrition. 2004;134(5):1181-5 13. Kim Y, Je Y. Dietary Fiber Intake and Total Mortality: A Meta-Analysis of Prospective Cohort Studies. American Journal of Epidemiology. 2014;180(6):565-73.
14. Grains & Legumes Nutrition Council (GLNC). GLNC Grains & Legumes Product Audit. Unpublished. 2015-16