In addition to reducing the risk of diabetes and obesity (Anderson, 2003), eating whole grains lowers the risk for cardiovascular disease. A 21% lower risk of cardiovascular disease is documented in 7 prospective cohort studies (Mellen, Walsh, & Herrington, 2008). In fact, the benefit of eating whole grains is independent of other contributing lifestyle factors (McBurney, 2008). While eating whole grains improves insulin response and blood pressure, some grains like oats and barley specifically lower LDL cholesterol levels (Harris & Kris-Etherton, 2010).
Eating whole grains has also been associated with a lower risk of gastrointestinal cancers (Slavin, 2000), with a recent systematic review and meta-analysis of 25 prospective studies by Aune, Chan, Lau, Vierira, Greenwood, Kampman, and Norat (2011) indicating dietary fibre to be protective against colorectal cancer. Dietary fibre is thought to contribute to the protective value of whole grains, but recent explanations also take into account the contribution from antioxidants, which are found in the bran and germ of whole grains (Fardet, 2010; Slavin, 2000).
That complex carbohydrates or low GI foods create a greater sensation of satiety through the production of gut hormones (Bornet, Jardy-Gennetier, & Jacquet, 2007) — thereby reducing overeating (Roberts, 2009) — is well established. Pre-lunch hunger is reliably lower when participants eat a mid-morning snack containing barley than when it contains wheat or rice (Schroeder, Gallaher, Arndt, & Marquart, 2009). Similarly, lower glucose and insulin levels, and higher ratings of satiety result 90 minutes after a breakfast of complex carbohydrates, compared to one containing simple carbohydrates (Pasman, Blokdijk, Bertina, Hopman, & Hendriks, 2003).
Having oats for breakfast and brown-with-white rice for lunch will not only lower medical costs and days of sick leave among employees, but will ensure employees don’t fall asleep at work!