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Uncover the Truth about Whole Grains for the Alzheimer’s Diet

Posted by on Monday, April 1st, 2013

When we mentioned in an early article that food labels can be deceiving, we were not kidding!  But now let’s delve deeper and see if we can break the hidden code when it comes to whole grains and food labels for the Alzheimer’s diet.  Is there really a way to discover just how many grams of whole grains a product has without taking it to the food lab for analysis?

Whole grains for Alzheimer's diet

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 What are Whole Grains?

So here is the skinny on whole grains; the grain’s seeds-including the corn, wheat, or other grain, is comprised of a germ (an oil with nearly 17 essential nutrients-this is the part of the seed that sprouts), then a starchy outside layer, and a layer of antioxidant rich high fiber bran that protects the inside of the seed.  Refined grains on the other hand have only one part of the grain-the starchy powder, stripped of all of the healthy parts of the seed.  This is commonly known as white flour, and it contains nothing other than empty carbohydrates

Cooking brown rice for the Alzheimer's diet

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The simplest way to know for sure you are getting whole grains is to forgo bad carbs from  processed food products altogether and opt for brown rice or oatmeal, barley flakes, buckwheat, bulgur wheat, cracked wheat, millet, pearled barley, popcorn, quinoa, rolled oats, rye, spelt, or steel cut oats.  When you choose to purchase processed foods in the grocery store, it’s important to learn about how to read labels correctly to decipher just how much whole grains the product really contains.

Labels & Whole Grains for the Alzheimer’s Diet

When you are trying to decide which food products offer the highest level of whole grains, ignore the hype on the front of the package and go straight to the list of ingredients, usually located on the back or side of the package. But be aware that labels can be deceptive and it may take a while to get the hang of it.  All in all the goal for healthy Alzheimer’s nutrition is to  have 3 or more servings of these seemingly illusive whole grains each day, so it’s important to figure out how to separate the marketing propaganda from what you are actually getting nutritionally in the foods you select.

According to The Whole Grain Council, “If the first ingredient listed contains the word “whole” (such as whole wheat flour or ‘whole oats), it is likely – but not guaranteed – that the product is predominantly whole grain. If there are two grain ingredients and only the second ingredient listed is a whole grain, the product may contain as little as 1% or as much as 49% whole grain (in other words, it could contain a little bit of whole grain, or nearly half).”   The Whole Grain Council proclaims that is the reason the “whole grain” stamp was created.  The stamp will provide insurance that a product is primarily composed of whole grain ingredients. 

Research

Recent Alzheimer’s research says that nutrition is one of the most important factors when it comes to brain health.  Many experts say that the heart healthy Mediterranean diet including plenty of whole grains, fruits and vegetables as well as fish, nuts, and olive oil is the ticket when it comes to brain health-as well as heart health. 

In clinical studies, women who ate whole grains over white bread and other refined grains gained less weight.  In fact as many as 74,000 women were involved in the 12 year study and those who consistently ate whole grains gained less weight than those who did not.  According to an assistant professor at Harvard Medical School in Boston, Simin Liu, “Whole grains may contain enzymes that force the body to burn extra calories during digestion,”

De-Coding the Labels

reading food labels for Alzheimer's diet

Image Source: Naturalgrocers.com

According to Cooking Light Magazine, many of the labels on popular processed foods we eat every day are not completely accurate when it comes to whole grains.  One thing to note when reading labels is where does “whole grains” appear on the ingredient list?  The closer to the top of the list an ingredient appears, the higher the percentage of that specific ingredient in the food product.  To demonstrate how food labels are accurately read, here is the final tally on some of the products that the experts at Cooking Light evaluated:

Ritz Whole Wheat Crackers

When reading the label on these popular snack crackers, you will notice that whole grain wheat flour is half way down the list of ingredients (which indicates it’s not made of 100% whole grains.  This product also has hydrogenated fat or trans-fat, which is not recommended on the Alzheimer’s diet.  According to Cooking Light, “you’d have to eat over 200 calories and 360 mg sodium (and likely a few grams of trans-fats) to reach a full serving of whole grains.”

Wheat Thins Crackers- the first ingredient is whole grain flour and these snack crackers really deliver with 11 grams of whole grains per 16 crackers-a much better alternative to Ritz crackers, according to Cooking Light. 

Tostitos Stone-Ground White Corn Tortilla Chips-at least half of the grains in these corn chips are whole grain with 8 grams per ounce, but with only 6 chips per servings, the calories stack up fast, so while these chips can claim accurately that they offer whole grain, you will get more bang for your buck with a chip higher in fiber such as Sun Chips.

Sun Chips Multi Grain chips- there are as many as 18 grams per serving in Sun Chips, which offer whole wheat, and whole oat flour, with around 15 chips per serving, you can eat twice the amount of these tasty chips for more than double the whole grains as Tostitos offers.

Kellogg’s Raisin Bran Cereal a great choice for breakfast with whole grains showing up at the top of the ingredients list as the most plentiful ingredient.  With as many as 27 grams of whole grains per serving Raisin Bran really packs a punch in the whole grain department but be sure to check the sugar content which is a bit high, so watch your portion size.

Check out Cooking Light’s inclusive list of products for more information on popular processed food items and their whole grain content.

 Whole Wheat Recipe

Whole wheat pasta for Alzheimer's diet

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There are plenty of healthy recipes to try using whole wheat products, such as; Whole-Wheat Pasta with Edamame, Arugula, and Herbs-yum!

In Conclusion

Eating whole grains is definitely a part of a healthy Alzheimer’s diet, so it’s worth the time it takes to really do your research and study up on just what you are getting in the food products that say “whole grains” on the label.  To be on the safe side, eat plenty of foods every day such as brown rice, oatmeal, quinoa, and even popcorn-but hold the butter.  To learn more about healthy whole grains and how much to include in the daily diet for Alzheimer’s prevention, pick up your copy of “The Alzheimer’s Diet” book written by Harvard trained neurologist, Richard Isaacson M.D.

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 theadplan.com 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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