From a delicious piece of white toast to a bowl of pasta, many of us enjoy consuming refined grains.
But a new study has warned that eating too many of them can have serious consequences, including an increased risk of heart disease, stroke and even early death.
Refined carbohydrates, including croissants, white bread and pasta, have had the high fibre parts removed, meaning they get broken down faster and lead to rapid spikes in blood sugar levels when consumed.
Based on the findings, the researchers are urging people to consider replacing their favourite refined grains with wholegrain options, such as brown rice and barley.
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Grains are considered to be ‘whole’ if they contain all three original parts – the bran, the germ and the endosperm.
However, if one or more these three key parts has been removed, the grains are referred to as ‘refined.’
The Wholegrains Council explained: ‘White ﬂour and white rice are reﬁned grains, for instance, because both have had their bran and germ removed, leaving only the endosperm.
‘Reﬁning a grain removes about a quarter of the protein in a grain, and half to two thirds or more of a score of nutrients, leaving the grain a mere shadow of its original self.’
In the study, researchers from Simon Fraser University looked at the effects of following a diet high in refined grains.
Their analysis included 137,130 participants from 21 countries, including those from low-, middle- and high-income areas.
Grains in the participants’ diets were categorised into three groups – refined grains, whole grains and white rice.
Refined grains included goods made with white flour, including white bread, pasta, noodles, breakfast cereals, crackers and baked goods.
Meanwhile, whole grains included any foods made with wholegrain flours, or intact or cracked whole grains.
The analysis revealed that participants who consumed more than seven servings of refined grains per day were at a 27 per cent greater risk for early death.
This group was also found to be at a 33 per cent higher risk for heart disease, and a 47 per cent higher risk for stroke.
Professor Scott Lear, who led the study, said: ‘This study re-affirms previous work indicating a healthy diet includes limiting overly processed and refined foods.’
Based on the findings, the researchers suggest that people should limit their intake of refined grains, and consider swapping them for whole grains.
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The researchers added: ‘Intakes of a combination of cereal grains with a lower intake of refined wheat products should be encouraged while promoting a higher intake of whole grains.
‘Reduction in quantity and improvement in quality of carbohydrate is essential for better health outcomes.’