Guest Post Sally Marchini, Dietitian
So often I refer to the Australian Dietary Guidelines, and today’s blog is no exception as I thought that Grains would be a great topic to explore as they’re so helpful for our diabetes management, weight management, avoidance of cardiovascular disease and to help us maximise nutritional requirements!
I’ll first look at why grains are important and what nutrients they include, then look at some of the variety of grains that are available to us, how many we need in our daily food intake and some new ways and recipes to include them. I think it’s interesting to know that this group is one that the guidelines are often not met, so hopefully this blog will make a difference for you.
As I hope you know by now, there are 5 different food groups listed in the Australian Dietary Guidelines (I’ll call them ‘the guidelines’ from now on). One of the key points under Guideline 2 (Enjoy a wide variety of nutritious foods every day) is to “enjoy grain (cereal) foods, mostly wholegrain and/or high cereal fibre varieties”, and for good reasons too!
The evidence for their inclusion in the guidelines gets a ‘Wow!’ from me with the guidelines telling us that:
• Cardiovascular disease: There is evidence of a probable association between the consumption of grain (cereal) foods (especially wholegrains and those with fibre from oats or barley) and a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease in adults (Grade B; Evidence Report, Section 6.3). Almost all the high level trials were conducted with oats, with the evidence of beneficial lowering of levels of LDL and total cholesterol levels. The protective effect was noted with between one to three serves per day of wholegrain foods (predominantly oats).
• Type 2 diabetes: There is evidence of a probable association between the consumption of grain (cereal) foods (especially wholegrains) and reduced risk of type 2 diabetes (Grade B; Evidence Report, Section 6.7). The evidence supports three serves per day of wholegrain foods conferring between 21% and 42% reduction in risk of type 2 diabetes.
• Excess weight: There is evidence of a probable association between consumption of three to five serves per day of grain (cereal) foods (mainly wholegrain) and reduced risk of weight gain (Grade B; Evidence Report, Section 6.6).
• Colorectal cancer: There is recent evidence suggesting that consumption of one to three serves of cereals high in dietary fibre per day is associated with reduced risk of colorectal cancer in adults (Grade C; Evidence Report, Section 6.2). Although previously the WCRF report noted a probable relationship, it recently reviewed the evidence and found it convincing that fibre-rich foods offer protection against colorectal cancer (see Appendix F). This is also supported by a recent systematic review and dose response meta-analysis of prospective studies showing that three serves of wholegrain and high fibre cereals per day reduced the risk of colorectal cancer.
• Other cancers: Recent evidence is inconclusive for an association regarding the consumption of grain (cereal) foods and risk of other cancers in adults (Evidence Report, Section 6.1).”
This section of the guidelines finishes up by reminding us of a very important reason for us to focus on whole grains rather than processed grains: “Because wholegrains contain more nutrients and phytochemicals, concentrated in the bran and germ, they are likely to have greater effects than refined grains (cereals). Wholegrains contain phenolic compounds with strong anti-oxidant capacity that may be protective against processes involved in the pathology of type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancer. Choosing wholegrain options may also assist with satiety and help in not over consuming food beyond energy (kilojoule) requirements.”
What’s in grains?
When you think grains, you might think ‘carb source’ or ‘low GI’ or ‘high fibre’ and you’d be right on all counts! The guidelines advise us that they also contain “protein, B group vitamins, vitamin E, iron, zinc, magnesium and phosphorus. Other protective components are fermentable carbohydrates, oligosaccharides, flavonoids, phenolics, phytoestrogens, lignans, protease inhibitors, saponins and selenium.” Another “Wow!” from me 🙂
Types of grains
The National Grains & Legumes Council has a very helpful website which goes into all kinds of detail on the topic of grains (and legumes too).
I like this listing of the types of grains that The National Grains & Legumes Council website provides:
“There are a number of different types of grains found within the Poaceae family from ‘true’ cereal grains e.g wheat, oats, rice, corn (maize), barley, sorghum, rye, millet, to the ‘pseudo-cereal’ group e.g. amaranth, buckwheat and quinoa (pronounced ‘keen-wah’). The ‘pseudo-cereal’ group are not part of the Poaceae botanical family, in which ‘true’ grains belong, however they are nutritionally similar and used in similar ways to ‘true’ grains.” The links will take you to further nutrient and historical information about the grains as listed.
For those of us with coeliac disease (unable to eat grains containing the protein gluten), as well as it still being Coeliac Awareness Week (13-20 March), you’ll notice that many grains are gluten-free – corn, rice, sorghum, millet, amaranth, buckwheat and quinoa. Remember to NOT start a gluten free diet unless you’re tested first for coeliac disease, but there’s no reason not to include these gluten free grains in a healthy balanced diet as they’re full of great health benefits (as all wholegrains are).
How do we include them?
My other favourite ‘go to’ recipe websites include the Australian Healthy Food Guide (which also offers more great tips and advice on grains) and Taste.com.au that has a great selection of whole grain recipes.
So the main points to remember for us with diabetes is that we should aim for Whole Grains, rather than processed grains, and remember to ‘count the carbohydrates’ in the grains that we consume while aiming for the recommended number of serves each day. If you’re not sure what carbs are in the different types, use Calorie King to find out.
How do you ensure your intake of whole grains across your day??
Sally Marchini is owner of her private practice (Marchini Nutrition), has had type 1 diabetes for close to 40 years and coeliac disease for many years too.