This month, we've asked our Expert Panel members to answer this question: "What are your thoughts on
incorporating whole grains into a low (or lower) carb lifestyle?"
It's important to remember that not all members of our Expert Panel will agree with one another.
And that we (Low Carb Luxury) may not necessarily always agree with our panel members. But each of them bring
some valuable insight to the table. And each has tried to share their viewpoints and reasons behind them.
From Richard Feinman, Ph.D.
Professor of Biochemistry
State University of New York Downstate Medical Center
If you are on a low (or lower) carb diet, then you believe that the carbohydrate
content of what you eat is the most important factor. The presence of
micronutrients and fibers and other ?healthy? stuff is secondary especially
if you are one of the many people who are over-nourished rather than malnourished.
So all grains must be viewed with suspicion. In the phase of your diet where you
add back carbs, whole-grains may be preferable to more processed grains but remember
that the major increase in food consumption during the obesity epidemic was in wheat.
My personal (not expert) opinion is that promotion of whole-grains is a hold-over
from the ?natural? ideas of the sixties. I think overweight and obesity is a
serious medical and personal problem for many people and a romantic lifestyle
is a luxury.
A real expert opinion on this would have experimental evidence but there may be
big individual differences. On this, I like the French translation of the word
experiment: experience. Trust your own experience: if you gain weight when you
eat whole-grains and your goal is to lose weight, then stop.
It might be good to remember that it was as far back as Brillat-Savarin, the
great French gastronome, that it was recognized that we feed grain to livestock
in order to get them to develop all that animal fat. Also, lots of whole-grain
is recommended by the just-published government guidelines on nutrition, so how
good could they be?
From Fred Pescatore, M.D.
The Centers For Integrative and Complementary Medicine
Author of The Hamptons Diet
Whole grains are an integral part of a lower carbohydrate lifestyle. it is necessary
for people to understand how to incorporate whole grains into an appropriate diet program.
Without that, the low carber has no hopes of living a happy life in this high carb world.
The Hamptons Diet incorporates whole grains right from the very beginning so the body learns
how to metabolize these foods in a healthy way. A low carb diet without thoughts of how a
person can handle the healthy carbohydrates is not a lifestyle program, but a fad diet.
From Dan Maiullo
Everything in moderation. As far as low carb is concerned, it is really about
choosing which carbs to eat. If you restrict yourself to 10 grams per day, well
then there's not much to choose from. But if you eat 50 to 100 grams per day,
which is more realistic for most of the population, then you may give up a candy
bar for a piece of fruit. Or maybe you will eat more vegetables and cut out
potatoes and rice. You can substitute whole grain bread for white bread, or
whole wheat pasta for regular pasta. But if you have already eliminated bread
and pasta from your diet, whole grain products aren't really appropriate.
The current whole grain buzz is really just PR for the grain interests to
recapture much of the market share that they have lost. Remember that
these guys still have alot of political pull, and that (added to bureaucratic
ignorance) is why the government is now recommending whole grains. Most whole
grain products contain just as much non-fiber carbs as their more processed
counterparts, though they may contain more fiber. Also, many of the health
benefits realized by people who eliminate wheat from their diet is as much due
to gluten sensitivity as it is to carb reduction. Whole grain wheat products
still contain wheat gluten.
If you choose to use whole grain products, just know that they are not really
much healthier than products made with bleached white flour.
From Jonny Bowden, MA, CN, CNS
Author of "Living the Low Carb Life"
e-Diets and i-Village Weight Loss Coach
If grains are going to be eaten at all, they should be whole grains. That's a no-brainer.
The bigger, harder question is whether they need to be eaten at all. The answer is a decided
maybe. Certainly people can do very well on a no-grain diet. Grains are high on the list of
triggers for food sensitivity, often undiagnosed. Certain gluten is a problem for lots of
people (the big gluten containing grains are barley, rye, oats and especially wheat). And
many of my colleagues are even more concerned about the toxins and pesticides that come
with the wheat and grains than they are about the grains themselves. Finally, many
grains — even some whole ones — have a high glycemic load which is definitely a
problem for a lot of people.
On the other hand, people like Dr. Richard Bernstein are big fans of oatmeal, even on
a carb restricted diet. I tend to agree with him, though it's not going to be true for
In short, I think whole grains belong at the very top of a good food "pyramid", certainly
not at the bottom. Some people will do fine on them and others should probably restrict
them. How much you need to restrict them — or even if you need to eliminate them — depends
on the individual person.
From Gil Wilshire, M.D., FACOG
President and Chief Scientific Officer,
Whole grains are currently enjoying a renewed splash of popularity (sound familiar?).
This is certainly a good thing with respect to public health: anything that reduces the
consumption of refined grains is a good thing. A healthy diet — be it low carb for weight
loss, or isocaloric for weight maintenance — should contain foodstuffs that are as close
to their natural "undamaged" state as possible. Clearly humans have evolved consuming these
types of nutrients and we are certainly best adapted to digest and process these items.
The jury is still out whether some (or maybe most) people really do benefit from grain
consumption, per se. Fiber, essential oils, and minerals are all found in better quantities
in other foods. The only reasons I can see to eat grains is that they are relatively cheap
sources of calories and their consumption fosters a lot of commerce.
My personal bias is that the optimal diet for most people is one that is composed primarily
of diverse roughage and non-starchy vegetables, meats and protein sources from a wide variety
of sources, and a large quantity of oils from seeds, nuts, and fish. I'd rather my "prey"
eat the grains... I'll consume the flour as an occasional treat. Let the cattle continue
to get fat and juicy on the corn feed. I'd rather be the lean hunter type.
From Joy Pape, RN BSN CDE WOCN
Certified Diabetes Nurse Educator
As with everything, this too needs to be personalized. The more experience I get, I realize
that there's a whole lot more to nutritional counseling and diabetes education than just
what's "good for you." People do well for a while but many times old habits creep in,
likes and dislikes really come into play. Some people can stop eating grains without a
problem, but some people can't do without them.
So, back to my mantra, "Numbers don't lie." Early on, I teach that carbohydrates do
cause blood glucose to rise more than protein and fat. I teach that whole grains are
considered carbs, and not all carbs are bad but they do have more of an impact on
blood glucose. If someone who has diabetes. wants to incorporate whole grains into
their lifestyle, we look at ways to do this without going overboard.
overboard? That's different for each person. How do they know? By monitoring
their blood glucose right before and one to two hours after to see how a certain
food or meal affected their blood glucose. For example, if a person can't think
of eggs without toast, then how about one piece of thin sliced whole grain toast
rather than two slices of white bread? Things like that. Things people will
live with for a lifetime.
From Pete Maletto
Chief Science Officer
Whole grains tend to have excellent macronutrient values, as well as being higher in fiber
and protein from lack of processing.
Depending on your critical carbohydrate level, whole grains are one of the few traditional
carbohydrates you might want to allow as part of your low carb lifestyle. That's because
the glycemic index of most whole grains are relatively low, meaning they have a moderate
impact on blood glucose levels, especially when proteins and good fats are included as
The inclusion of whole grains in appreciable quantities is likely to prevent ketosis, however,
this can be quite favorable for some individuals who cannot physically tolerate operating
on ketones alone.
If a person feels lethargic at very low carbohydrate levels (under 20 to 30 grams per day),
it may be beneficial to slowly add whole grains and vegetables into the diet (up to 60 grams per
day) until that person feels physically normal again.
Some whole grain carbohydrates are especially advantageous to those who tend to workout a great
deal because of their greater need for glucose in the muscle cells. Inclusion of whole grains
are best during the day (when energy is most required) and should not to be included in one's
final meal of the evening.
It's important to remember that each individual has different needs. It's up to us to find
what protein, fat, and carbohydrate levels we feel physically best on.