Friday, March 26, 2010

Whole Grain Foods Are Key to a Healthy Lifestyle

It has become popular to blame farmers and food processors for the increased obesity of the American public. Indeed, Americans are fortunate to have bountiful quantities of healthy, wholesome food.

According to Dr. Julie Miller Jones, however, the obesity epidemic that plagues this nation is due solely to overeating and an increasingly sedentary lifestyle. Jones, who is distinguished scholar and professor emeritus of nutrition in the Department of Family, Consumer and Nutritional Sciences at the St. Catherine University in St. Paul, Minnesota, was a guest speaker at the Kansas State University Department of Grain Science and Industry Centennial Lecture Series in Manhattan in February.

It is little wonder that obesity in America is on the rise. According to Jones, in 2000, 13% of Americans were considered obese, up from 6% in 1965. For every 100 additional calories an average American consumes in one day, he will gain 10 pounds in one year if he doesn’t increase physical activity. In 1977, the average American consumed 1,876 calories per day; in 1995, that number increased to 2,043 calories. Moreover, today’s average child burns 700 fewer calories per day than he did 20 years ago.

A diet rich in whole grains is important when promoting human health. Whole grain foods are filling, they decrease cholesterol, reduce the risk of some cancers, coronary disease and diabetes. Just one of every 10 Americans eat the amount of whole grains they think they should eat; yet 70% of the people think they consume enough whole grains, Jones says.

“What I would like people to do is eat the right amount of grains, not necessarily more. The word more in America terrifies me, just because some people take more as an excuse to overeat. I would like people to eat the right amount of grains for their age and activity level. For most of us, that is 5 to 6 servings of grains a day. I would like half of those to be whole grain,” Jones explains.

Jones says the concept of serving size can be confusing. Portion sizes for the average American are far larger than USDA dietary guidelines suggest. A serving size is a slice of bread, or an ounce of cereal. Many people eat multiple servings per meal, but oftentimes those servings are not whole grains. Simply choosing foods with whole grain ingredients can help consumers lead a healthier lifestyle. It’s not easy; consumers must study nutrition labels and look carefully for those that feature whole grains. But in the end, it’s a much easier task than adopting a completely different food regimen.

“Getting people to switch to whole grains is a much easier dietary change than teaching people to eat more eggplant, more fruits and vegetables. It simply means when you order a sandwich, choose whole wheat bread. When you choose a cereal, choose a whole grain cereal. When you go to parties, take whole grain crackers. It is simply what you are already eating, only substituting part of what you’re eating with whole grain products. It’s a much easier dietary change, but a doable one,” she says.

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