If you buy packaged grain products (breads, tortillas, crackers, cereals, pastas), you’ll notice many have the words “multigrain”, “stone ground”, “cracked wheat”, or “100% whole wheat”, or “Seven Grain” on the front label. Unfortunately, most of these items are usually NOT whole grain products, but instead refined grains with fancy labeling. Did you know that manufacturer’s use “raisin juice concentrate” to darken white bread, making it appear healthier? Brother!
Even if the first word on an ingredient label is “whole”, the rest of the ingredients could be anything but healthy. I learned an interesting tidbit while reading Dr. Greger’s book, “How Not to Die”. It’s called “The Five-to-One Rule”. This simple mathematical method is an easy way to tell if the product is really that healthy. The secret is to compare the ratio of carbs to fiber. Divide the carb grams by the fiber grams, and shoot for an answer of five or less.
The examples Dr. Greger includes are these: Wonder Bread has 30 grams of carbohydrate and 3 grams of fiber. Thirty divided by 3 = 10, so Wonder bread goes back on the shelf. How about Ezekiel bread? It has 15 grams of carbohydrate and 3 grams of fiber. Fifteen divided by 3 = 5, so Ezekiel bread passes the test. Multi-grain cheerios have a ratio of over 7, compared with Uncle Sam cereal which has a ratio under 4.
Why is this important? The less processed the grains are, the better. When grains are ground into flour or puffed, the are digested more rapidly and more completely. Dr. Greger explains that this increases their glycemic index and leaves fewer leftovers for the friendly flora in our colon to eat up.
One study divided people into two groups. One group ate nuts, seeds, and beans – more or less intact. The other group ate the exact foods, but ground into flours and pastes. The first group ate nuts, chickpeas and museli. The second group ate nut butters, hummus, and museli ground into cream-of-wheat texture. Both groups were eating the whole foods, just in different forms.
The result was that the intact whole grain diet doubled their stool size. Why? Because there is so much more left over for your gut flora to eat when you eat your grains intact. The bulk of stool is not undigested food, but rather pure bacteria – trillions of bacteria. Which could explain why our stool increases nearly 2 ounces for every ounce of fiber we eat. So whole grains are good, but intact whole grains are even better.
Lastly, oatmeal is of course a wonderful whole-grain breakfast. Brown rice for breakfast may sound weird, but it beats puffed brown rice cereal – and warm bowls of grains are traditional breakfasts in many parts of the world.
Dr. Greger suggests three servings of whole grains a day – but the servings sizes are not very large. For example, 1/2 cup hot cereal or cooked grains, pasta, or corn kernels; 1 cup cold cereal; 1 tortilla or slice of bread; 1/2 bagel or English muffin; 3 cups popped popcorn. Considering these serving sizes, just one pasta meal may exceed 6 servings! There are also a variety of quick-cooking whole grains available on the market today, making it easy to get at least 3 servings.
I hope you found this interesting!
PS: I checked my own bread in the fridge, labeled “Stone-ground, 100% whole wheat”. Carbs are 27 grams, and fiber is 3 grams. Twenty-seven divided by 3 = 9. This violates the Five to One rule – so I won’t be purchasing this brand again!