Whole grains and longevity

Last year, a Harvard University analysis found that people who eat more whole grains tend to live significantly longer lives.

This is no great surprise, given that whole grains appear to reduce the risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, obesity and stroke.

But eating whole grains should involve more than just swapping white bread for whole wheat, white rice for brown and ordinary pasta for the whole-wheat variety.

Try less familiar whole grains such as quinoa, wild rice, buckwheat, barley and millet. And go for the most colourful variety on the shelves — such as red quinoa — that contain more antioxidants.

There’s experimental evidence to suggest pigmented rice — red, purple or black — not only has five times more antioxidants than brown, but acts against allergies and has anti-cancer effects.

Cereals and whole grains
Cereals and whole grains

How can you tell if something’s whole grain? Sadly, it’s not always evident, but it’s easy to learn how.

In the supermarket, anything labelled with the words multigrain, stone-ground, cracked wheat, seven-grain or bran is usually not a whole grain. They’re trying to distract you from the fact they are using refined grains.

Use the Five-to-One rule. Look at the nutrition facts label on the package and see if the ratio of grams of carbohydrates to grams of dietary fibre is five or less.

For example, let’s take 100 per cent whole-wheat Wonder Bread, which has 30g of carbohydrates and 3g of fibre. Thirty divided by three is ten. Well, ten is more than five, so the whole-wheat Wonder Bread goes back on the shelf.

Compare that with a sprouted-grain bread that has 15g of carbohydrates and 3g of fibre. No problem — it passes the test.

Coffee may help protect your health

Drinking a couple of cups of coffee each day could reduce a person’s risk of death from a number of illnesses, including heart disease, a new study has found.

US researchers analysed data from three ongoing studies involving over 208,000 men and women. Coffee-drinking habits were assessed every four years over a 30-year period. During this time, almost 32,000 people died from a range of causes.

They found that people who drank a moderate amount of coffee each day – that is less than five cups – had a reduced risk of death from heart disease, type 2 diabetes and neurological disease.

These results stood irrespective of whether the coffee was caffeinated or decaffeinated. This suggests that it is not just the caffeine that benefits healths, but possible naturally occurring chemical compounds in the coffee beans.

Cup of coffee
Cup of coffee

“Bioactive compounds in coffee reduce insulin resistance and systematic inflammation. They might be responsible for the inverse association between coffee and mortality. However, more studies are needed to investigate the biological mechanisms producing these effects,” the researchers said.

They acknowledged that the results should be interpreted with caution, but said that they add to previous findings which suggest that moderate coffee consumption offers some health benefits.

“Regular consumption of coffee can be included as part of a healthy, balanced diet. However, certain populations such as pregnant women and children should be cautious about high caffeine intake from coffee or other beverages,” they added.

Details of these findings are published in the journal, Circulation.