PhotoMaintaining a balanced diet requires a lot of research, and doing that extra bit of homework can lead to a healthier lifestyle and reduce the risk of disease. Now, researchers have found that consumers who eat more whole grains and fiber were found to be at a lower risk for non-communicable diseases.

“Previous reviews and meta analyses have usually examined a single indicator of carbohydrate quality and a limited number of diseases so it has not been possible to establish which foods to recommend for protecting against a rage of conditions,” said researcher Jim Mann.

“Our findings provide convincing evidence for nutrition guidelines to focus on increasing dietary fiber and on replacing refined grains with whole grains. This reduces the incidence risk and mortality from a broad range of important diseases.”

Reducing risk for disease

The researchers evaluated 58 clinical trials that had over 4,600 participants to see the way diet affected the number of cases of various types of cancer, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, coronary heart disease, stroke, and the likelihood of early death.

The more whole grains and fiber the participants incorporated into their diets, the better their health was over the long term.

Eating more whole grains was found to reduce the overall risk of disease by anywhere from 13 to 33 percent, and the risk of death due to disease also decreased. The researchers found that participants who upped their whole grain consumption by 15 grams per day were less likely to develop colorectal cancer, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes.

The study produced similar results when participants increased their fiber intake. Not only was an uptick in fiber consumption found to protect against both breast cancer and stroke, but adding eight grams of fiber per day was also linked to lower risks of colorectal cancer, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes.

“The health benefits of fiber are supported by 100 years of research into chemistry, physical properties, physiology, and effects on metabolism,” said Mann. “Fiber-rich whole foods that require chewing and retain much of their structure in the gut increase satiety and help weight control and can favorably influence lipid and glucose levels.”

The researchers note that in the United States, most people consume around 15 grams of fiber per day, though the recommended amount is between 20-25 grams. However, the study found that eating beyond those 25 grams can be even more beneficial to consumers’ health.

Power of whole grains

Though many consumers have veered toward a gluten-free diet, a recent study found that cutting gluten out completely isn’t necessarily the answer. The researchers said that eating whole grains can be very beneficial.

“Gluten is clearly harmful for people with celiac disease,” said lead researcher Dr. Benjamin Lebwohl. “But popular diet books, based on anecdotal and circumstantial evidence, have pushed the notion that a low-gluten diet is healthy for everyone.”

“Our findings show that gluten restriction has no benefit, at least in terms of heart health, for people without celiac disease. In fact, it may cause some harm if they follow a low-gluten diet that is particularly low in whole grains because those grains appear to have a protective effect against heart disease.”

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