When looking to make healthier lifestyle changes as a New Year's resolution, the amount of information on the "perfect" diet can be overwhelming. The popular "Wheat Belly" diet may pop up, but don't be fooled by fad diets promising an easy fix or encouraging the elimination of entire food groups.
"As you consider your New Year's resolution options, you can count on wheat foods," said Cindy Falk, nutrition educator at Kansas Wheat. "For losing weight and keeping it off, there is nothing magical about going wheat free. Together with physical activity, wheat foods can help you manage your weight, give you energy and improve your heart health, all while being a great tasting food."
Complex carbohydrates found in bread and other wheat foods provide fuel for the human body. Wheat flour is a vehicle for vitamins and minerals and an important source of B vitamins, folic acid, antioxidants, phytochemicals, fiber, magnesium and carbohydrates. These nutrients can contribute positively to health and can help prevent many chronic diseases plaguing the world today such as; heart disease, diabetes, some cancers and neural tube birth defects.
Studies have shown that no single food group is responsible for the global obesity epidemic. Falk said that blaming one food for an epidemic is gross oversimplification. There has been no proven link between wheat consumption and obesity rates. In the United States the per capita consumption of wheat has decreased while obesity rates have gone up. Italians consume more than double the amount of wheat and have one-quarter the obesity rate compared to the U.S. In Morocco, wheat consumption is over four times that of the U.S. yet the adult obesity rate is less than half of the U.S.
"A successful diet must be a sustainable diet, something you can follow long-term," said Falk. "It is possible to lose weight quickly by following fad diets that eliminate entire food groups. However, these diets are not sustainable and don't work in the long run. Yo-yo dieting, the ongoing, repeated cycle of weight loss and regain, is associated with more weight gain over time."
According to the New England Journal of Medicine, eliminating wheat will not result in wheat loss unless caloric intake is reduced. After six months to a year, most people begin to regain the weight lost, no matter what foods were cut to lose the weight, while New England Journal of Medicine says that weight can be lost on nearly any diet that lowers the amount of calories consumed.
"The most effective weight management approaches combine caloric control with physical activity," said Falk. "Long term weight maintenance is best achieved by people who find a combination of strategies that work best for their lifestyles."
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The Institute of Medicine suggests that 45-66 percent of daily calories come from carbohydrates. Grains, fruits, vegetables, legumes and dairy products are all recommended sources of carbohydrates.
For people not afflicted with celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity, who react negatively to gluten, wheat contributes fiber, vitamins and minerals in a vast array of food products that promote good health and vitality.
For whole grain recipes, information on wheat foods and learning how to make your half grains whole or to ask Falk your own nutrition question visit www.americasbreadbasket.com.