Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Boost the Grains, Drop the Cholesterol!

It all started with whole grain oat cereal. They were one of the first food products to start using the health claim highlighting the connection between foods that contain soluble fiber from oats and heart health. There are many foods that contain soluble fiber, including fruits, vegetables, legumes and grains, especially whole grains. This specific type of fiber can lower blood cholesterol levels when eaten as part of a diet that includes healthy fat sources. 

In total, Americans are advised to get between 20-35 grams of fiber per day, with at least 5-10 grams of soluble fiber included. The average American gets about half that amount. Whole grains, as half your grain servings, help achieve these values and provide other valuable nutrients at the same time. 
One particularly compelling study by Italy’s National Research Council showed healthy middle-age adults who ate whole grains instead of refined grains lowered their total cholesterol by 4.3% and “bad” LDL cholesterol by 4.9% (3). This study was well designed. The fifteen whole grain participant’s diets were calorically equal to the control group who ate refined grains. The two group’s switched diets after a two week “washout” break period between controlled diets. In both instances, the whole grain groups showed improved cholesterol levels on the whole grain diet. 

Don’t forget to go for a jog or pump some iron either! Exercise is one way to improve your cholesterol or HDL High-Density Lipoprotein (also known as "The Good Cholesterol") values that are protective to your heart. 

If you’re looking to improve your cholesterol values, boosting your whole grains would be an excellent way to get started! Make half your grains whole every day!


1.      Oldways Whole Grain Council. (n.d.) Whole Grain Myths (Brochure).  Retrieved August 24, 2017 from

2.       Masters, R. C., Liese, A. D., Haffner, S. M., Wagenknecht, L. E., & Hanley, A. J. (2010). Whole and Refined Grain Intakes Are Related to Inflammatory Protein Concentrations in Human Plasma. The Journal of Nutrition140(3), 587–594.

3.       Giacco, R., Clemente, G., Cipriano, D., Luongo, D., Viscovo, D., Patti, L., . . . Riccardi, G. (2010). Effects of the regular consumption of wholemeal wheat foods on cardiovascular risk factors in healthy people. Nutrition, Metabolism and Cardiovascular Diseases,20(3), 186-194. doi:10.1016/j.numecd.2009.03.025

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Don’t Fear Grains

Have you ever found yourself confused on what to eat or what not to eat? You should know you are not alone. We are heavily influenced by society and bombarded by media headlines on the latest diet or food obsession. It’s easy for influencers or the media to create a message that grabs attention, but only tells half the story. Carbohydrates, specifically in grains, have been accused of everything from causing weight gain to diabetes. 

Substantial scientific evidence supports that grains can and should be part of a balanced diet to provide us with energy, fiber, vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals (which are like tiny super heroes that fight oxidative stress). Spending time to learn about the best grain options in the store when you shop is time well spent. Keep in mind, when you design your weekly meal plans try to include half of your grains as whole grains. While look over your product to see if it is wholegrain for the word “WHOLE” as the first ingredient. Experiment with adding a whole new side of whole grains such as quinoa, barley, millet, spelt and amaranth. Trying a new way to eat whole grains can be fun, interesting and a nutrition-boost for the whole family.

How much you need should be tailored to your age, sex and activity level to appropriately fuel your body and your mind. MyPlate has some excellent resources, like this GRAINS TABLE that will help you tailor your servings to your actual needs.

Whether it’s improving your pancake game by including whole grain flour or choosing a whole grain tortilla to make tacos, remember “don’t fear the grain aisle!” Grains aren’t the enemy. Keep half your grains as whole grains and you’ll be well on your way to a happier, healthier you!

This blog post is in collaboration with Ultragrain White Whole Wheat Flour.  Thank you for supporting the products that allow me to do what I love as a professional triathlete and dietitian!  The views expressed here are my own!