Is eliminating or decreasing the amount of grains and gluten you eat part of your New Year’s healthy diet resolution? If heart health is a health focus, reducing whole grain foods from your diet might not be a good idea, according to new research out of Harvard University.
While Paleo and gluten-free diets have been gaining popularity in recent years, the new research notes that eating more whole grain foods can significantly reduce your risk of dying early from heart disease. Regularly consuming that old health food staple, bran, which is the outer layer of a grain that’s removed during the refining process, came with a whopping 20 percent reduction in the risk for developing heart disease.
The Harvard study, which appears in the January issue of the journal JAMA Internal Medicine, looked at data from more than 74,000 women from the Nurses’ Health Study and more than 43,000 men from the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study over a 25-year period.
What the researchers noted was that the consumption of whole grains was associated with up to a 9 percent lower overall mortality and 15 percent lower risk of a cardiovascular disease (CVD) related death. The improvements were significant: for each single serving of whole grains per day, the overall mortality dropped by 5 percent and 9 percent for CVD.
“Replacing refined grains and red meats with whole grains is also likely to lower mortality,” Harvard said in a statement. “Swapping just one serving of refined grains or red meat per day with one serving of whole grains was linked with lower CVD-related mortality: 8% lower mortality for swapping out refined grains and 20% lower mortality for swapping out red meat.”
“This study further endorses the current dietary guidelines that promote whole grains as one of the major healthful foods for prevention of major chronic disease,” department of nutrition professor Qi Sun, and one of the study’s lead authors, said in a statement.
Giving up grains, and particularly gluten even without a sensitivity or Celiac disease, has been a hot diet trend for weight loss and other health benefits. Another recent study also found that wheat might be beneficial to the health of the planet as well, by returning carbon to the soil.
Today’s supermarkets are loaded with “whole grain” product claims on items that may also contain refined flours. If you’re looking to add more whole grains to your diet, reading labels is necessary to ensure you’re getting whole grains first and foremost, which should be labeled as “whole” like “whole wheat” or “whole grain brown rice.” Another way to determine if the product contains a healthy dose of whole grains: for every ten grams of carbohydrates, there should be at least one gram of dietary fiber (which is usually listed right under the total carbohydrates on the nutrition panel).
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