If you’re still spreading peanut butter and jelly on colorless Wonder bread or heaping your stir-fry on top of a pile of Uncle Ben’s, it’s time to wean yourself off the refined stuff and explore whole grains.
Kudos to you if you’ve already made this trade-in; whole grains are higher in nutrients and will raise your blood glucose less than their refined counterparts do. Plus, unlike refined grains, they may protect your heart and help you maintain weight loss.
The reason for the nutritional disparity between refined carbohydrates and whole grains lies in the processing. Whole grains contain an outer bran layer, a middle endosperm, and inner germ, but refined grains are stripped of everything—including protein and many key nutrients—save for the endosperm. Because they’re less processed, whole grains have a lower glycemic index value than refined grains.
Another point in the whole-grains column is their relatively high fiber content, which can help lower cholesterol levels, control blood glucose, and keep you feeling full long after eating.
“It’s really important to eat foods that are going to fill you up and not leave you hungry an hour later,” so you don’t binge post-meal, says Elisa Zied, MS, RD, CDN, a registered dietitian-nutritionist and author of the book Nutrition at Your Fingertips. Zied suggests gradually replacing your current processed foods, such as regular pretzels, with whole grains like air-popped popcorn (sans butter, of course, and not the microwave stuff). “You just really have to be aware,” she says. “You need to think, ‘Where am I willing to compromise?’ ”
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