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The “Whole” Truth About Healthy Grains for the Alzheimer’s Diet

Posted by on Friday, September 9th, 2016

 whole grains for the Alzheimer's diet

We hear a lot about the benefit of substituting whole grains for refined sources of carbohydrates in our diet these days-particularly for the Alzheimer’s diet.   The food industry has jumped on the bandwagon, offering everything from packaged whole grain pasta, pizza crust, snack items and more.  But are these processed prepackaged foods labeled “healthy whole grains” good for the Alzheimer’s diet?  If not, what exactly constitutes healthy whole grains, and how do you know uncover the truth about whole grains?

Refined Grains vs Whole Grains

Whole grains include the entire kernel or grain seed, which is comprised of the fibrous bran section, the nutritious wheat germ as well as the starchy endosperm layer. 

When grains are refined, the healthy fiber (bran) layer and the germ layer (containing vitamins, minerals and fats) are removed, leaving only the starchy endosperm layer of the seed-which is mostly carbohydrates.  When a food product is labeled “enriched” it means the iron and vitamins are artificially replaced back into the product.  Refined grains have a finer texture because the healthy bran and germ layers have been removed (milled) in order to produce a longer shelf life.  Milling is the process of grinding and crushing the whole grain to produce flour.  Processing whole wheat flour into refined white flour results in the reduction of up to 80% of the vitamins and antioxidants contained in whole grains.

Berkeley Wellness reports, “Refined wheat flour loses 83% of total phenolic acids, 79% of total flavonoids, 93%, 78% of total zeaxanthin, 51% of total lutein, and 42% of total beta-crytoxanthin compared with whole wheat flour.”  These are all scientific names for various antioxidants. 

What Are Whole Grains?

The FDA says whole grain contains the germ layer (which contains a high level of vitamins, minerals and fat), the outer bran layer (with fiber, vitamins, protein and phytonutrients) and the endosperm (rich in protein, starch and some vitamins and minerals). Not all milling results in refined flour. If a food company recombines the bran, germ, and endosperm components after milling, in roughly the same proportions as in the original kernel, then the resulting flour is considered whole-grain. If the three components remain separated,  then the resulting product is no longer a whole grain.

Shopping for Whole Grains

When shopping for whole grains, you may notice packaged food products such as bread, pastas and cereals labeled “made with whole grains,” which may appear to be a healthy whole grain product.  But in actuality, these foods may be comprised mostly of refined white flour,  not the type of food you want to eat on the Alzheimer’s diet. 

Reading Labels  

  • Products that are simply labeled with “wheat” or “semolina” can contain zero whole grain ingredients
  • Stamps on food products created by the Whole Grains Council do NOT necessarily indicate the food item is a healthy whole grain food
  • If a package ingredient list says “100% whole grain” or whole wheat (barley or other grain) is the very first ingredient listed, most likely more than half of the product’s grains are whole grains
  • Always examine the ingredient list in foods instead of simply reading the package label
  • Oats are rarely refined, but steel cut oats usually contain a higher level of fiber
  • Avoid instant packets of oats and rice cereals that contain high sugar content
  • Food products such as bread or pasta are considered high in whole grains if they
  1.    Contain at least 8 grams of whole grains per serving
  2.    Have a label that lists whole grains as the first ingredient
  3.    Contain 51 percent or more whole grains by weight

Many processed foods that contain whole grains are not usually comprised of 100% whole grains.  The healthiest sources of carbohydrates recommended for the Alzheimer’s diet are low glycemic index fruits and vegetables and those that come from genuine whole grain sources (brown rice, quinoa, buglur and more). Below is the list of 100% whole grains that are recommended for the Alzheimer’s diet.  The Alzheimer’s diet recommends that you use whole grains from the list below to cook with instead of purchasing prepackaged foods, many of which contain 49% (or more) refined grains.

Unrefined Whole Grains for the Alzheimer’s Diet

  • Bulgur
  • Quinoa
  • Brown rice
  • Steel cut oats
  • Unrefined Oats
  • Unrefined corn
  • Buckwheat
  • Millet
  • Amaranth

There are many misleading labels on foods that contain grains.  Some terms are a red flag that the food item most likely contains mostly refined grains. To be certain, the first ingredient must say “100% whole grain,” and “whole wheat (brown rice, bulgur, oats etc.) must appear as the very first ingredient in the ingredient list.  Avoid foods that contain the following words or phrases on the package or ingredient list:

  • Multi-grain, 7 or 9-grain (simply means the product contains more than 1 type of grain)
  • 100% wheat (instead of 100% whole wheat)
  • Durum wheat
  • Wheat flour
  • Wheat bread
  • Stone wheat
  • Organic flour
  • Enriched or unbleached wheat flour

                                                                                      Nutritional Value of Whole Grains

Recent studies indicate that consuming 2 to 3 servings of whole grain foods each day may reduce the risk of high blood pressure, diabetes, colon cancer, obesity and cardiovascular disease.  Remember that what’s good for the heart is good for the brain, so when studies indicate that whole grains can help reduce risks of heart disease, we know these foods are also good for Alzheimer’s prevention.   

There are many combined nutrients in whole grains that provide the protective properties seen in many research studies.  The outer bran layer of whole grain that contains the fiber is also rich in nutrients such as iron, zinc, copper, magnesium, B vitamins and phytonutrients.  The germ layer contains healthy unsaturated fats, B vitamins, Vitamin E and other antioxidants.  The starchy endosperm layer is mostly made up of carbs, but it contains small amounts of vitamins and protein.   Overall whole grains contain nutrients including, phytochemicals, fiber, minerals, vitamins, phytosterols, lignans, phytin and sphingolipids.  Berkeley Wellness says these nutrients are thought to have what is called a synergistic effect on disease prevention-meaning they work together to produce a better outcome in health than each nutrient would on its own. 

The phytochemicals contained in whole wheat also complement those found in fruits and vegetables.  Eating a healthy whole grain cereal with fresh fruit in the morning is a great way to integrate the Alzheimer’s diet into your daily menu.

Learn more about foods  recommended for the Alzheimer’s diet by CLICKING HERE to purchase Harvard trained neurologist, Dr. Richard Isaacson’s book, “The Alzheimer’s Prevention and Treatment Diet.” 

For more easy to follow nutrition advice check out The Alzheimer’s Diet: A Step-by-Step Nutritional Approach to Memory Loss Prevention and Treatment, or visit to learn more about Neurologist, Dr. Richard Isaacson's 9 week diet plan and his cutting edge approach in the fight against AD in Alzheimer's Treatment | Alzheimer's Prevention: A Patient and Family Guide 2012 Edition. Also, sign up for the newsletter to get the latest updates in AD treatment and prevention news.

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