Prescription Nutrition 2 of 4: Grain of Truth

This series of four CuriosityStream videos, featuring our darling Dr Michael Greger, provides such as good overview of the health benefits of plant foods, as well as insights into how delicious plant foods can be as central features in our daily meals, that I thought it would be useful to show each video along with a transcript – just so that any useful links can be easier for you to copy and look up at your leisure. Part 2 looks at the nature’s wondrous gifts – whole grains.

Prescription Nutrition: 2. Grain of Truth  – The Video

Prescription Nutrition: 2. Grain of Truth  – The Transcript

People featured in the video are the narrator Craig SechlerDr Michael GregerChef Rich Landau & Kate Jacoby (Vedge Restaurant), and Tracye McQuirter MPH.

(The person speaking is shown in brackets before the text.)

(Kate Jacoby) What I encourage people to do basically is just start where they are and add. If you can get a third to a half of your plate to be vegetable then the other half you want to be whole grains and beans. I knew that food that linked to your own health but I also knew that food was delicious and it made you feel good and it helped you celebrate things with your family.

(Dr Michael Greger) People that consumed whole grains tend to live significantly longer, have lower rates of heart diseases, diabetes, stroke, obesity.

(Chef Rich Landau) I’ve found that people enjoyed good food and it really doesn’t matter what’s on the plate as long as it’s good. If you can make a meat-free meal better than a meal that has meat, I don’t think people really care that much.

(Craig Sechler) Grains have provided the foundation for human existence since the dawn of civilisation. African societies have been nourished by sorghum and millet. Asian cultures by buckwheat and rice. Even the ancient Aztecs revered the flowering perennial amaranth for its supernatural powers worthy of the gods. Today, grains remain a cornerstone of our diet around the world, and a closer examination is revealing surprising implications for our health.

(Tracye McQuirter) Whole grains are essential to the diet. They are actually the cornerstone of a healthy, wholefood plant-based diet. Whole grains are where you get your complex carbohydrates. They’re loaded with fibre, they’re loaded with protein. You can get at least 10 percent of your daily protein needs from whole grains like quinoa, millet, oats and bulgur.

(Dr Michael Greger) People that consume whole grains tend to live significantly longer, and have lower rates of heart disease, diabetes, stroke, obesity. We did interventional trials. We split people up into two groups and one group we have eat oatmeal for a couple of weeks and the other half continue their regular diet. Then you can see the only thing that we did differently was that we just added the oatmeal and then we can see what happens. And those kind of studies you can show that adding whole grains to people’s diets can significantly lower blood pressure, help control of blood sugars and help control cholesterol. These are critical risk factors for some of our deadliest diseases such as heart disease.

(Craig Sechler) While the vast majority of people understand the impact of their dietary habits, modern food choices can be difficult to navigate. Over the last century, dramatic advances in industrial farming and food manufacturing have produced a flood of convenient, cheap and tasty processed foods. Today, roughly 60% of the calories consumed in the US come from heavily processed food products that often include refined grains – a major dietary issue that’s having a profound impact on public health.

(Chef Rich Landau) There are chemicals in this food that you can’t read the ingredients on the label. You can’t understand some of these ingredients. These are usually cheap foods. They’re not very nutritious and they’re making our kids fat and unhealthy. They’re malnourished, so they’re bulking up on all this carb and cheap you know kind of so-enhanced products, yet they’re not getting any nutrition. And that’s what’s leading to some of the health problems in our country.

(Dr Michael Greger) The number one cause of death is diet. 97% of Americans eat fibre-deficient diets and don’t even reach the recommended minimum daily intake of fibre. 98% of Americans don’t get enough potassium and are potassium deficient. Why? Because you’re not eating enough plants.

(Craig Sechler) For experts, the health consequences of the modern diet are worrisome. Recent data from the American Heart Association, places stroke as one of the leading cause of death around the world, with other 70 million casualties each. By 2030 this number is expected to surpass 23 million. These statistics hit close to home for chef Kate Jacoby and prompted her from a young age to rethink the close ties between food and health.

(Kate Jacoby) My father had heart disease. Ever since I knew him he had this major issue. When I was in fifth grade he had double bypass surgery and I learned very early on like how all that was going to impact our home and what was in our cabinets and the foods that we would eat. I actually learned to make bran muffins for him because that was something that we were told would keep his cholesterol low. And I swear I could blindfolded with one arm behind my back make two dozen bran muffins. That was my signature thing.

(Craig Sechler) Using her personal experience as a catalyst for change, chef Jacoby has been crafting healthy yet delectable plates alongside chef rich Landau at Vedge restaurant in Center City Philadelphia.

(Kate Jacoby) I see food as such a personal thing. You grow up with what your family is feeding you and then your own personal habits, so it’s personal. It can be very off-putting if somebody is preaching to you. We never want to preach to people, we just want to give an example of something that we feel is great for us and if people think it’s delicious then that’s great.

(Chef Rich Landau) I found that people enjoyed good food and it really doesn’t matter what’s on the plate as long as it’s good. If you can make a meat-free meal better than a meal that has meat, I don’t think people really care that much.

(Craig Sechler) Experts have been touting the health benefits of plant-based foods for decades. Lower risks of chronic diseases have been associated with a higher intake of vegetables, whole grains, fruits and legumes. One recent study found that eating just three servings of whole grains a day was just as effective at lowering blood pressure as some commonly prescribed medications. The resulting decrease could reduce the risk of having a heart attack by 15% and the risk of having a stroke by up to 25%.

(Tracye McQuirter) What I encourage people to do is basically just start from where they are and just add. And if you think of a nine-inch plate for lunch of for dinner, if you can get a third or a half of your plate to be vegetables then the other half you want to be whole grains and beans. What we mean by whole grains as opposed to refined grains is that the whole grain actually still contains the fibre, the bran and the germ. It has not been removed. They have not been processed out. And that’s where all the nutrients are.

(Dr Michael Greger) The difference between whole grains and refined grains is they start with a whole grain like brown rice or whole wheat and then they refine it. They remove the outer layers, that’s where most of the nutrition is. So you start out with hundreds or thousands of phytonutrients in this and you strip it down to just a few and then, by law (because it’s so nutrient-deficient) they have to add back – spray back  – some nutrients so that people don’t start dying from these diseases like beri beri which is a vitamin B deficiency caused by the refining of brown rice to white rice. We killed lots of people until we realised oh! that’s what’s happening…it’s a nutrient-deficiency disease induced by food processing.

(Tracye McQuirter) When you read an ingredients label on a package item it can say enriched something. Enriched flour means that they’ve taken the bran, germ and fibre out and then they’ve added maybe about 6 to 7 synthetic nutrients back in. When you’re eating white bread, when you’re eating white rice, when your eating white pasta, it basically converts into sugar in your body and it spikes the blood sugar level. People are concerned about sugar itself, but white flour products are very unhealthy foods to eat for that reason. They’re very, very harmful, very dangerous and they can actually shorten your life. There’s absolutely no reason for people to eat any refined, processed grains that are so unhealthy.

(Dr Michael Greger) I encourage people to not just go whole grains – that’s a great step – but even better eat intact grains. Eat grains as we were meant to eat them by just chewing them instead of putting them through a mill, and then it actually leaves bits and pieces behind for good gut bacteria to eat and it’s actually absorbed very slowly and naturally into your body. So I’m talking about you know oatmeal, quinoa, you can actually see the individual grains rather than flour products – something like pasta or bread.

(Craig Sechler) Quinoa is an ancient crop traditionally consumed in the Andean region of South America that’s quietly made its way out of health food stores into more mainstream supermarkets and restaurants. It was called the mother grain by the Incas and is widely considered a super food, given its high nutrient content and because it’s loaded with fibre, vital minerals, protein and antioxidants. But quinoa’s greatest culinary asset might be its versatility.

(Chef Rich Landau) One of the things we like to do the most is pair our food with each other. Think about what’s sweet, what’s spicy, what’s creamy, what’s savoury, what’s nutty, what’s earthy in everything you’re cooking and find the perfect balance. So quinoa for me is very nutty. It’s got this really wonderful, almost crunchy, texture to it. Autumn squash is creamy and rich and sweet. They’re a perfect match for each other. What we like to do is use delicta squash which is a torpedo-shaped squash. It’s got a light yellow flesh and it’s sweet and really, really creamy, full of just delicious flavour. We cut these down into rings and scoop out the seeds and roast them in the oven with just a little bit of salt and pepper and a little bit of spice. Next thing we take the quinoa and we cook that with just a little bit of, we like to call them thanksgiving spices – a little bit of allspice, a touch of clove, a little bit of cumin, and finish it with a little bit of rosemary. And then we take our peppers, all sorts of different autumn peppers and saute them in a pan with a little bit of garlic and olive oil [I don’t recommend using any added salt or oil] and that little bit of heat you get from the peppers combined with the nuttiness of the of quinoa and the creaminess of the squash makes this incredibly perfect dish.

(Craig Sechler) Unfortunately, in today’s world, not all grains are created equal and many of the ways we consume them are radically reducing their biggest benefits. While it’s relatively easy to select different types of raw grains to cook, it can be challenging to sort out the myriad whole grain claims advertised on many processed foods.

(Dr Michael Greger) Even if it says whole grains in the ingredients list, they’re obviously highly processed. They removed the fibre and removed much of the other nutrition; so that’s way you want to put that back on the shelf and stick to really intact whole grains as much as possible. But if you are going to buy a packaged whole grain product like bread or breakfast cereal, I encourage people to stick to the 5 to 1 fibre rule, meaning: you look at the Nutrition Facts label and you want to make sure that the amount of carbohydrates to fibre is 5 to 1 or less, So if you have something that says 15 grams of carbohydrates per serving, you want to make sure that there’s 3 or more grams of fibre, so you get that 5 to 1 ratio, and that just gives you a sense of how little processing went on.

(Craig Sechler) Gluten has become a major concern for many consumers of packaged grain products in the past few years, yet research has shown that for the vast majority of people those concerns are largely unwarranted and could actually be detrimental to their health.

(Dr Michael Greger) There’s some people who need to avoid gluten, which is a protein found in certain types of grain, for those people they need to go on completely gluten-free diets for their whole lives. But this is less than 1% of people and then maybe another 1% have what’s called non-coeliac gluten sensitivity. They don’t have coeliac disease but do seem to experience gastrointestinal symptoms like chronic diarrhoea when they eat gluten-containing grains. And so for you know maybe 2% of the population may want to stay away from gluten, but for 98% of people right for the other you know 49 our of 50 people, then gluten is a health-promoting plant protein just like other-promoting plant proteins. It should not be avoided.

(Craig Sechler) Today it’s easier than ever to incorporate a wide range of grains from around the world into your diet, and transform them into a sumptuous foundation for virtually any meal.

(Chef Rich Landau) Grains can be really really delicious if you cook them right. And the big secret is that they’re easy to cook. Grains are easy because most of it is hands-off. You can get something as simple as a rice cooker and cook some really great rice in there. They’re delicious and they’re so good for you and it take literally the click of a button on a rice cooker to cook them. And the beauty of it is that you can salt it early and put any kind of seasonings in there. Add saffron threads, some curry spice, some Moroccan tajine spice, some Caribbean jerk spice. Throw anything like that into your grains and let them cook and they absorb it as they go and without any work whatsoever. When that timer goes off, you have a beautiful pot of grains.

(Craig Sechler) After thousands of years, grains remain the cornerstone of the human diet. They provide the foundation of much of what we eat and are a major source of many vital nutrients. With the emergence of more positive health studies, many experts hope for an even greater desire to move grains to the centre of our plates, as part of a broader shift toward healthier pant-based diets.

(Dr Michael Greger) We now know that some of our most common diseases – such as high blood pressure and heart disease and type 2 diabetes – these diseases can be prevented, arrested and even reversed with a healthy enough diet and lifestyle.

(Tracye McQuirter) We have to take control. We have to understand that really healthy plant-based foods are the best foods that we can eat. So we need to add more of them to our plate and there’s no shame in wanting to eat healthy food. There’s no shame in wanting to be healthy. Everyone is not going to chose to eat plant-based foods, but everyone should have the right to the information, so that they can make that choice.