What You Think You Know About Whole Grains Is Probably All Wrong (Sorry)

Posted By Debbie on May 12, 2014

You’ve been told by someone that you should eat lots of whole grains. Everybody got on the whole grains bus and now a bunch of crappy foods are made with whole grains. You now think you must be doing something nutritionally good.

Unwhole grains are unholy.

Unwhole grains are another way of saying processed grains… grains that have had the key nutritional bits removed. Take your standard white flour, which can be used for seemingly-everything from breading your chicken wings to baking your cupcakes to being the key ingredient in your breads and pastas. Here’s how the nutrition on something like that looks:

  • 1 cup (158 grams) of white flour
  • 578 calories. 1 cup of white flour has about 1/4 of the calories suggested that you eat in an entire DAY.
  • Low in fat, cholesterol, and sodium. Great.
  • 126 grams of carbs. Less than 4 grams of “dietary fibre.” So 2.5% of it is healthy fiber.
  • Not much protein or vitamins. You’re not eating chicken wings and cupcakes for the vitamins.

This is what you’re eating all day in your bagels, macaronis, and on sandwiches. A giant pile of high-calorie carbs with pretty much no nutritional value. It’s sadly the foundation of an American diet, even for vegetarian and vegans (who aren’t reading labels).

Now let’s talk about whole grains. Whole grains are unrefined and still have the healthier parts of the grains included. And that implies that we’re talking about non-GMO grains. Anything Monsanto has touched, well Lord knows what’s in that.

Let’s consider quinoa.

  • 1 cup (185 grams) of cooked quinoa
  • 222 calories. Less than half what the same amount of white flour had.
  • Low in fat, cholesterol, and sodium. Great.
  • 39 grams of carbs. 5 grams of dietary fibre.
  • Not much vitamins but it has 8g of protein and 15% of your daily value of iron.
  • Plus it’s gluten free for anybody looking to avoid gluten.

You’ve heard you should eat brown rice with your Chinese food instead of white rice. Well, eating brown rice will give you a bit more fiber but also a bit more calories.

Well if the whole point is to have fibre, what should I be eating?

The foods with the highest amounts of fibre include bran (yeah, just bran), cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage, raspberries, celery, squash, and kidney beans.

Notice that other than bran, NONE of the foods in the top 10 are grains.

The health promises of whole grains are mostly a lie unless you are eating the right things.

If you are eating crappy processed oatmeal with sugar, preservatives, and it promises some “whole grains,” what have you really eaten? Did you really get any of the nutrition your body needs? What nutritional elements are you getting daily from your pasta, bagel, sandwich bread, cookies, pizza, cereal, etc…? I suggest you are getting nearly zero nutrition and mostly empty calories from these things.

And have you ever noticed how quickly you’re hungry again? You could eat a whole bowl of Cheerios and be ready to eat some more in an hour. This is one of many reasons why “all you can eat pasta” is such a bad idea. No nutrition, endless calories.

You’re eating whole grains to reduce your risk factors for heart disease, cancers, and other health issues. Is the rest of your diet aimed at that goal?

I would bet that staying away from starches, especially refined flours and grains, would give you just as many health benefits if not more than eating “whole grains” or products made with whole grains. What if you got your fibre mostly from broccoli instead of the small amount of truly whole wheat you’re getting each day.

Keep reading labels because wheat and whole wheat aren’t the same thing. Whole grains and “made with whole grains” aren’t the same thing. Don’t believe the lies and don’t tell yourself lies about nutrition. We can all do better for ourselves and the children. 🙂