Most people know that whole grains are more nutritious than refined grains. They?re higher in important nutrients like magnesium and B-vitamins. And we know that the fiber in whole grains helps stabilize blood sugar while refined grains contribute to diabetes and pre-diabetes. But do refined grains contribute to high blood pressure?
A group of researchers at Boston?s Brigham and Women?s Hospital wanted to know just that. If refined grains do contribute to hypertension, could switching to a diet higher in whole grains change this picture?
We already know that hypertension is a major risk factor for heart disease. And heart disease is the number one killer of postmenopausal women. If eating refined grains contributes to high blood pressure in women, perhaps eating more whole grains could lower their risk for hypertension and heart disease.
Researchers have conducted most studies on heart disease and hypertension on men. But this large study explored the consumption of whole grains vs. refined grains in women. That makes these results even more relevant to many of you.
The researchers took nearly 29,000 women aged 45 or older who had no history of heart disease or hypertension and followed them for 10 years. Here?s what they found: There was no association between eating refined grains and high blood pressure.
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However, they did find a correlation with eating whole grains. The women who ate the highest quantity of whole grains had a reduced risk for high blood pressure.
So while eating white flour and white rice might not raise your blood pressure, eating more brown rice, oatmeal, quinoa, and whole grain breads and crackers could help prevent hypertension. And, in doing so, it lowers your risk for heart disease. This is good news for us during the holiday season.
As you look at making changes this New Year, see where you can substitute whole grains for the refined grains in your diet. Small changes today could prevent serious illnesses tomorrow. So enjoy your holiday goodies, but remember to add more whole grains to your diet.
At a time when Peace on Earth seems difficult to attain, this is a good time to take a deep breath and focus on the words in the song, "Let peace begin on earth and let it begin with me." My wishes for you now and as we enter a New Year are Peace and Good Health. Let them begin with you and extend to all of your loved ones around the world.
Your voice of reason in Women's Health,
Dr. Janet Zand
Wang, L, et al, "Whole- and refined-grain intakes and the risk of hypertension in women," Am J Clin Nutr, August 2007.