Whole grains can be part of a healthy diet for type 2 diabetes.
Whether you've been diagnosed with diabetes or you're simply trying to prevent it, you might be paying closer attention to your diet. Since many diet plans recommend cutting down on carbs, there's also a chance that you're avoiding grains. However, not all grain-based foods are the same. Take whole grains for instance. These minimally processed grains are loaded with key nutrients that can be an important part of a healthy diet for type 2 diabetes.
Intrigued? Here's what you need to know about the health benefits of whole grains, plus easy ways to work them into your diet.
The Whole Grain Advantage
In their natural form, whole grains contain three layers: the bran, the germ, and the endosperm. The bran and germ layers contain the bulk of the grain's vitamins, minerals, fiber, and antioxidants, but they're often removed when whole grains are processed to make foods like white rice or white flour.
Despite the nutritional benefits, many people with diabetes avoid whole grains on account of their carbohydrate content. However, health experts agree that in the proper portions whole grains can be part of a healthy diet for diabetes. Unlike rapidly digested refined grains, fiber-rich whole grains take time for the body to break down and absorb. That results in a slower, sustained carbohydrate release and lower blood glucose.
A Surprising Prevention Strategy
Even if you don't have diabetes, whole grains may be a part of helping to prevent it. One recent study of 55,000 women and men aged 50 to 65 found that those who ate roughly two ounces of whole grains a day (the equivalent of two slices of whole wheat bread or a third of a cup of cooked brown rice) were 22 to 34%, respectively, less likely to develop type 2 diabetes than people who rarely ate whole grains. The reason may be two-fold. In addition to their beneficial effects on blood sugar, minimally processed whole grains expand in the gut like a sponge, filling you up and helping you eat less. Over time, that can help prevent weight gain that may lead to insulin resistance and eventually type 2 diabetes.
Making Whole Grains Work for You
If you'd like to eat more whole grains but aren't sure where to start, these tips can help:
- Make a crunchy snack mix with equal parts whole grain cereal and nuts.
- Whip up whole wheat French toast or pancakes for a satisfying weekend brunch.
- Cook a big pot of brown rice, quinoa, or whole wheat couscous. Cool and divide into single-serve containers to store in the freezer for a quick side dish.
- Toss cooked barley, brown rice, or quinoa into soups, stews, or salads.
- Stash a box of whole grain crackers in your desk drawer or glove box for healthy snacking in a pinch.
- Not ready to make the switch from white to wheat? Try swapping one slice of whole wheat bread for half the white bread in your sandwich. This trick also works with whole wheat pasta and cereal too!
To get started, aim for small servings with each meal. That could be as easy as a bowl of whole grain cereal in the morning, a burrito bowl with brown rice at lunch, and a serving of whole wheat pasta with vegetables for dinner. When it comes to making whole grains part of your healthy diet for type 2 diabetes, a little goes a long way.
Learn more about managing your Type 2 Diabetes by reading Rite Aid's Diabetes Solution Center!
By Karen Ansel, MS, RDN
Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Whole Grains
The Whole Grains Council, What's A Whole Grain? A Refined Grain?
American Diabetes Association, Grains And Starchy Vegetables
American Diabetes Association, Diabetes Myths
WebMD, The Truth About Whole Grains