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The Health Benefits of Whole Grains for People With Diabetes

Medically reviewed by Mitchie Gonzales-Montalbo, MD · Dietetics and Nutrition

Written by Lorraine Bunag, R.N. · Updated Sep 20, 2022

    The Health Benefits of Whole Grains for People With Diabetes

    If you have diabetes, you know that you must limit your intake of refined carbohydrates, which come in the form of “white” products (white rice, white bread, etc.) Instead, doctors encourage the consumption of whole grains. What are the benefits of whole grains for diabetes? Find out here. 

    What Are Whole Grains?

    You must have already heard countless advertisements boasting about their products’ whole grain content, but what exactly are whole grains, and why are they better than refined carbohydrates?

    Whole grains refer to the unprocessed seeds of cereal plants, like barley, corn, rice, rye, quinoa, and wheat². Whole grains retain all its three parts: 

    • Bran – It is the thin, outermost layer rich in insoluble fiber, phytochemicals, and B vitamins. 
    • Endosperm – It is the thickest, central part rich in starch. 
    • Germ – It is the smallest part rich in protein and healthy fats. 

    Now, many manufacturers choose to “refine” whole grains into white bread, white pasta, white rice, etc. The process results in a finer texture and longer shelf life but removes the bran and the germ and the nutrients that come with them. 

    The Benefits of Whole Grains

    Based on the discussion above, it’s easy to point out that one of the benefits of whole grains is their nutritional value. But what other health benefits do they offer, particularly for people with or who are at risk of diabetes

    1. They Are Better for Blood Sugar Control

    Reports say whole grains have a lower glycemic index compared to their refined alternatives. That means they do not affect blood sugar levels as quickly as white products do. 

    In one study involving participants with metabolic syndrome, the researchers observed that those who consumed whole grains had better blood sugar control than those who consumed refined grains³. 

    2. Research Shows They Reduce the Risk of Heart Disease

    Did you know that diabetes increases your risk of developing cardiovascular disease? 

    According to studies, whole grains have a variety of nutrients associated with a decreased risk of heart disease and stroke. They may even help lower the level of artery-clogging cholesterol³. 

    3. Whole Grains Promote Regular Bowel Movement

    One of the benefits of whole grains is they promote regular bowel movement. This is due to the fiber content of the bran. 

    4. They Can Help Weight Management

    Some reports say that whole grains are more filling than refined grains. Hence, consuming whole grains might help you reduce unhealthy snacking in between meals. Of course, this can help you manage your weight better. 

    5. Whole Grains Can Reduce the Risk of Type 2 Diabetes

    If you’re at risk of diabetes, know that one of the benefits of whole grains is type 2 diabetes risk reduction

    For instance, one report mentioned that higher consumption of total whole grains and several commonly eaten whole-grain foods, such as dark bread, brown rice, whole grain breakfast cereals, and oatmeal, are associated with decreased type 2 diabetes risk⁴. 

    Reminders on Whole Grain Consumption

    Despite their benefits, remember that whole grains are not the only food items you should focus on. Be sure to have fruits and vegetables, lean protein, healthy fats, and low-fat dairy. Refrain from eating processed and sugary foods. 

    When it comes to whole grains, the following reminders might be helpful:

    • Don’t rely on color. To determine if it’s a whole grain product, check the labels. Remember that caramel coloring can be added to make the product look like it has whole grains. 
    • Look for recipes. Initially, you might get intimidated by the concept of replacing refined carbs with whole grains because of the taste and preparation differences. The good news is, there are numerous recipes online for whole-grain bread, pasta, oats, and rice. 
    • Plan ahead. Remember that whole grains have a shorter shelf life. For this reason, plan your meals and be cautious with storage. 

    If you have questions about the benefits of whole grains, don’t hesitate to get in touch with your doctor. 

    Learn more about Type 2 Diabetes here


    Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

    Medically reviewed by

    Mitchie Gonzales-Montalbo, MD

    Dietetics and Nutrition

    Written by Lorraine Bunag, R.N. · Updated Sep 20, 2022

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