LAS VEGAS — Turns out, you can have your cake and eat it, too. Research revealed at the International Baking Industry Exposition suggests all grains can fit into a dietary pattern similar to recommendations set forth by the U.S. Department of Agriculture — including cakes, cookies or pies.
Yanni Papanikolaou, vice-president, nutrition and commercialization at Nutritional Strategies Inc., discussed the findings of research conducted with the Grain Foods Foundation during a presentation at the baking industry show on Oct. 10 in Las Vegas.
“Presently there are so many unsubstantiated claims prevalent in the media,” Mr. Papanikolaou said. “A lot of these claims are not proven by science. That said, there is a big following with these types of ideologies.”
In analyzing how grain foods contribute to the American diet, several key findings emerged. For one, bread, rolls and tortillas were found to be meaningful contributors of dietary fiber, magnesium, iron, folate, calcium and potassium.
“A lot of these are nutrients that have been characterized as shortfall nutrients by the current Dietary Guidelines,” Mr. Papanikolaou noted.
Researchers also learned that adults whose predominant source of grains came from pasta, cooked cereals or rice weighed on average 7.6 lbs less and had smaller waistlines than those who ate no grains.
“We used cluster analysis to identify eight unique patterns of grain consumption in both adults and children,” Mr. Papanikolaou said. “One of the interesting things we found… (was) every grain pattern had higher calorie intake throughout the day versus the no grains group. However, in certain groups, we actually saw, even though they had higher energy intake throughout the day, they actually had lower body weights.”
The Dietary Guidelines recommend six servings of grains a day, half of which should come from whole grains. But because most Americans are not meeting these standards, the researchers examined a diet that included five servings of enriched or refined grains and one serving of whole grains.
“We’re still seeing improvements in nutrient intakes, improved diet qualities, and grain foods are helping close the shortfall nutrient gap,” Mr. Papanikolaou said. “We did a modeling analysis … and the one model that had one serving of whole grains and five servings of enriched or refined grains — and that could have been a cereal, a pasta or what we call an indulgent grain like cake, cookie or pie — when we did that, we actually had a nutrient profile that was quite comparable to the recommendations set for by U.S.D.A.”
There is a caveat, however.
“When you added a second cake, cookie or pie to that model, that’s when you had significant increases in energy, fat, added sugar, etc.,” he said. “So there are ways to increase indulgent grains in your diet and remain within a dietary guidance.”
Much more must be done in grains research to help consumers understand the nutritional benefits of grain-based foods and dispel myths perpetuated on social media, Mr. Papanikolaou said.
“People say you shouldn’t eat bread or grains because it causes so much harm in the diet; that would be an interesting study,” he said. “What if we did eliminate them from the diet? We could do modeling scenarios around that. What does that look like?
“I bet you there would be significant associations with drops in the nutrient intakes, especially in the shortfall nutrients the government wants us to consume more of because we’re not getting enough.”
He cited important insights uncovered in dairy industry research over the past 15 years, including recent findings linking consumption of whole-fat milk and cheese with positive health outcomes.
“The grains research area is still very limited,” Mr. Papanikolaou said. “We’ve started this research momentum. The opportunity is there. We need to continue doing this.“Otherwise, there’s going to constantly be … the naysayers and negative attacks and, a lot of times, claims that are not backed up by science.”