A recent study published in Frontiers in Nutrition, a peer-reviewed medical journal of nutritional science, found that enriched, refined grains play an important role in the average American diet. While the health benefits of whole grains are well known, the new research determined that removing refined grain products from the diet of study participants resulted in nutritional deficiencies of important nutrients such as iron, dietary fiber, and magnesium.
According to a press release that appeared on PR Newswire, the study titled “The Role of Fortified and Enriched Grains in the U.S. Dietary Pattern: A NHANES 2009-2016 Modeling Analysis to Examine Nutrient Adequacy, looked at data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES). Researchers examined the daily intake of important nutrients in just over 20,000 men and women ages 19 to 99.
The researchers found that when they removed refined grains from the study subjects’ diets, their nutrient levels dropped significantly, as well as their energy levels. The study underscored the importance of consuming enriched, refined grains such as bread, ready-to-eat cereal, and all-grain foods to ensure adequate nutrition levels.
“Whenever you remove entire food groups or a majority of foods from select food groups, you will have nutrient shortfalls and likely will not have the kind of energy needed to sustain your daily activities, and grains are no exception,” said Stacey Krawczyk, a registered dietitian with the Grain Foods Foundation and president of FoodWell Strategies. “There are not many peer-reviewed studies out there that examine the nutrient combinations of staple refined, enriched and fortified grains in the American diet, so the hope is that this data will provide people with the understanding they need to recover potential nutrient shortfalls in their diet.”
Krawczyk tells Newsmax that refined grains contain the endosperm, the starchy part of the grain. She explains that enriched grains are refined grains that have important vitamins and minerals added to them in the milling process.
“This means that certain B vitamins and iron are added after processing,” she says. “These grains have been fortified with nutrients that address specific public health needs like neural tube defects. Fiber may also be added back to enriched grains.”
The expert says that, unfortunately, all non-100% whole grain foods have been lumped into one category and labelled “refined.”
“This has led to the entire category being disparaged,” she says. “The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend at least half your grains should come from whole grain sources. What about the other half? Shouldn’t there be examples of best or better choices? I think we would agree that donuts are delightful, but should they be nutritionally equated to bread, pasta, or ready-to-eat cereal?”
Less than 8% of Americans consume the minimum recommendation for whole grain foods, says Krawczyk, and less than 10% of dietary fiber consumed in the U.S. is derived from whole grain foods.
“Reducing the amount of enriched refined grain in the diet could lead to further nutrient intake inadequacy. Americans could possibly consume even less fiber and fewer critical nutrients such as folate, iron, magnesium and of course, dietary fiber,” she says.
According to EurekAlert!, a previous study analyzed extensive research on the health benefits of refined grain consumption and found no association with any of the chronic diseases usually linked to eating these foods.
“Quite simply, refined grains are not the bad guy,” said Glenn Gaesser, professor of exercise science and director of the Healthy Lifestyles Research Center at Arizona State University, who authored the 2019 study. “Contrary to popular belief and current dietary guidance, refined grain intake is not associated with type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, coronary heart disease, stroke, hypertension, cancer or death.”
For more information on the research, visit the Grain Foods Foundation website.
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