Cost Need Not Be a Barrier to Healthy Diets

Research analyzing the cost of healthy eating suggests that money spent on whole grains is money well spent. In a recent study, scientists collected 3-day food records from 252 youth with type 1 diabetes, then graded them for diet quality and nutrient density. The researchers then calculated the food costs for each participant, to examine the relationship between diet quality and diet cost. The scientists found that higher quality diets came in at a comparable cost to lower quality diets (only $0.68 more per day), as those with the healthiest diets allocated more of their money to whole grains, produce, lean meat, and low-fat dairy, while spending less money on high-fat meat and high-fat dairy.  Based on their results, the researchers concluded, “that cost need not be an insurmountable barrier to more healthful eating,” and that “it is possible to improve diet quality without undue financial burden.”
Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. 2014 September 26. Pii: S2212-2672(14)01218-0. [Epub ahead of print] (Nansel T et al.)

Sprouting Amaranth Can Increase Antioxidants

In a study in Mexico, researchers sprouted amaranth at different conditions to see which would maximize antioxidant activity. The scientists found that sprouting was able to increase antioxidant activity (300-470%), total phenolic content (829%), and flavonoid content (213%), and that the ideal time and temperature for sprouting amaranth was 30 degrees C for 78 hours. Additionally, protein and fiber content also showed increases from sprouting.
Plant Foods For Human Nutrition. 2014 Sep;69(3):196-202 (Perales-Sanchez JX et al.)

Fiber in Grains Lowers Mortality Risk

Dietary fiber is a healthy nutrient found in plant foods, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and beans. But is the source of fiber important? New research says yes. Korean scientists analyzed studies following over 900,000 people to determine the relationship between fiber intake and mortality. Not surprisingly, those with the highest fiber intake (about 27g/day) had a 23% lower risk of death than those with the lowest fiber intake (about 15g/day). However, upon closer inspection, the researchers found that these results were largely dependent on the foods eaten. As fiber from grains increased, mortality significantly decreased. A similar, although much weaker, relationship was observed for fiber from beans and vegetables, while no association was observed for fruit fiber.
American Journal of Epidemiology. 2014 Sep 15;180(6):565-73. (Kim Y et al).

Breakfast Cereal Associated with Higher Whole Grain Intake and Other Health Benefits

A study commissioned by the Australian Breakfast Cereal Manufacturers Forum analyzed 232 articles to investigate the health benefits and risks of eating cereal. The researchers found that while breakfast cereal consumption of any type is associated with diets higher in vitamins and minerals and lower in fat and a lower body mass index and less risk of being overweight or obese, whole grain breakfast cereal consumption provided even more benefits. Specifically, the study found that oat and barley based cereals can help lower cholesterol, and whole-grain or high-fiber breakfast cereals are associated with a lower risk of diabetes and higher intakes of protein, fiber, niacin, folate, calcium, and zinc. Additionally, the study found that those who eat breakfast cereal regularly have higher whole-grain consumption per day.
Advances in Nutrition. 2014 Sep 15;5(5):636S-73S, (Williams PG et al.)

Sprouting Brown Rice Can Increase Fiber

Brown rice is a reliable healthy option, but by sprouting it, you might get even more health benefits. In a study in Ecuador, researchers compared different levels of nutrients in six varieties of brown rice when it was raw, soaked, and sprouted. The researchers found that dietary fiber content increased (6.1-13.6%) with sprouting time and temperature in all varieties of brown rice, and that phytic acid content decreased noticeably. The effect of sprouting on other nutrients, such as peptide content and protein hydrolysis, varied across the different varieties of brown rice.
Plant Foods For Human Nutrition. 2014 Sep;69(3):261-7. (Caceres PJ et al.)

Kids Eat Whole Grains When They’re Provided

The new school lunch regulations represent large changes to the food environment of children, so it’s important to study how kids respond to food that’s provided to them. In an effort to see how changing the food environment affects the eating habits of kids, researchers assigned 83 middle schoolers to either a whole grain or refined grain group for six weeks. Participants and their families were given weekly grains (like pasta or cereal) based on their assigned group, and participants also got grain snacks at school. By providing children and their families with whole grain foods,researchers observed that the whole grain group was able to increase their whole grain intake from 1 to 4 servings per day. These results suggest that changing the food environment of children is a successful way to get them to eat more healthy foods, like whole grains.
Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. 2014 Sep;114(9):1417-23. (Radford A et al.)

Whole Grain Pizza Crust Popular with Kids

Restaurateurs hesitant to offer healthier alternatives might want to think again. Nutrition researchers at the University of Minnesota conducted taste tests and studied plate waste data with 120 kids in school cafeterias and 394 kids in restaurants. Not only did they find that children consumed as much of the whole-grain pizza as the refined-grain pizza, but they also discovered that liking ratings for the pizza did not differ by crust type. Based on their research, the authors concluded that “the impact on whole-grain intake could be substantial if large, national restaurant chains served pizza made with whole-grain crust.”
Public Health Nutrition. 2014 Aug 16:1-5 [Epub ahead of print] (Tritt A et al.)

Whole Grains Lower Insulin and Triglycerides in People with Metabolic Syndrome

Studies suggest a relationship between whole grain intake and insulin action. In a study in Italy, 53 adults (40-65 years old) with metabolic syndrome followed one of two different 12-week diets. One group consumed their standard diet, but replacing all grains with whole grains, and one group consumed their standard diet, but choosing only refined cereals. Researchers found that the whole grain group had significantly lower levels of post-meal insulin (29%) and triglyceride levels (43%) than before the 12-week test period, thus reducing the risk for heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Based on these findings, the researchers suggest that “the whole-grain diet was able to improve insulin action” after meals, thus providing clues about how whole grain diets reduce the risk of chronic disease.
Nutrition, Metabolism and Cardiovascular Diseases. 2014 August;24(8):837-844. (R. Giacco et al.)

Sprouting Increases Antioxidant Activity in Millet

Research shows that millet, a nutritious staple crop in many developing countries, can be made even more nutritious when the grains are sprouted. In a study in India, scientists measured the phenolic composition, antioxidant activity, and inhibitory properties against alpha-glucosidase and alpha-amylase (a mechanism that helps prevent spikes in blood sugar) of raw millet, germinated (sprouted) millet, and microwaved and steamed millet. The researchers found that “germinated millets showed highest phenolic content as well as superior antioxidant and enzyme inhibitory activities. These results suggest that germinated millet grains are a potential source of phenolic antioxidants and also great sources of strong natural inhibitors for α-amylase and α-glucosidase.”
Food Chemistry. 2014 Aug 13;169:455-63. (Pradeep PM et al.)


What you eat today may potentially affect your health years later. As part of a prospective study in Germany, researchers analyzed the relationship between the quality of carbohydrates eaten in adolescence and inflammatory markers in young adulthood. The analysis was based on 205 participants (113 girls and 92 boys) with at least two 3-day weighed dietary records during puberty, and blood samples in younger adulthood (18-36 y). Researchers found that eating fewer whole grains and more high Glycemic Index carbohydrates during puberty is predictive of higher interleukin 6 concentrations (a marker of inflammation) in adulthood. 
The Journal of Nutrition. 2014 July 30. [epub ahead of print] (Goletzke et al.)


While fruits and vegetables are known as sources of healthy antioxidants and phenolic compounds, research increasingly shows that whole grains contain them too. In this review, researchers analyzed the total phenolic contents, phenolic acid profile and antioxidant activity of several whole grains, including wheat, corn, rice, barley, sorghum, rye, oat and millet. The review shows that whole grains contain a number of phytochemicals (including antioxidants) and significantly exhibit antioxidant activity. Researchers conclude that the consumption of whole grains is considered to have significant health benefits including prevention of chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and cancer because of the contribution of phenolic compounds. 
Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition. 2014 July 30. [epub ahead of print] (Van Hung P et al.)


Inflammation has been linked to many diseases, so understanding how to reduce inflammation is important. In a small study in Scotland, 22 people with type 2 diabetes participated in a randomized cross-over study, which consisted of two 8-week interventions with either an oat-enriched diet (their normal diet with oats replacing some of the carbohydrates; average intake of oats was 131g/day, or the equivalent of more than 1 ½ cups uncooked rolled oats) or a diet based on the standard dietary advice from Diabetes UK (average intake of oats was only 5g/day). Researchers then assessed the microparticle concentrations (a marker of inflammation) of patients after each diet and found that the oat-enriched diet significantly improved these risk factors for inflammation.  
Molecular Nutrition and Food Research. 2014 June;58(6):1322-32. (Zhang X et al.)