Surprised that you can eat foods like whole-wheat and whole-grain bread and pasta on the South Beach Diet? Grains are an essential part of Phase 2 and beyond on this healthy eating plan because they provide necessary fuel for the body. But not all grains are created equal. Whole grains (as opposed to refined grains) are considered “good carbs” because they contain important nutrients like fiber, which helps to slow down digestion, stabilize blood-sugar levels, and ward off hunger and cravings. Studies show that eating whole grains instead of refined grains can help lower total cholesterol, LDL (“bad”) cholesterol, and high triglyceride and insulin levels. Here’s more on this important food group.
Why Whole Grains?
Whole grains are more nutritious than refined grains because the bran, germ, and endosperm are left intact during processing. Each part of the whole grain has different health properties, including fiber, minerals, and antioxidants. On the other hand, refined grains, like white rice, white bread, white pasta, and certain snack foods, are highly processed, which means that the nutritious bran and germ have been removed. While processing can increase a product’s shelf life, it also strips away fiber and other nutrients. Not only are refined grains less nutritious, they are digested more quickly. The result? Swings in blood-sugar levels, cravings for more refined carbs, and constant hunger.
How to Reintroduce Whole Grains on Phase 2
Once your cravings are under control on Phase 1 and you’re ready to transition to Phase 2, you can begin to slowly reintroduce whole grains. Start with 1 serving daily and gradually build up to 3 servings per day. During the first week of Phase 2, it's best to add 1 serving to your morning meal, which will help stabilize your blood sugar early in the day. Try eating a high-fiber cereal with milk or yogurt, for example. If your cravings return, experiment with different whole grains (paying attention to the recommended serving size and making sure you have your snacks on time) until you find those that keep your cravings under control.
If you’re following the Gluten Solution Program, on Phase 2 you’ll gradually reintroduce nutritious gluten-free starches, such as quinoa, buckwheat, amaranth flour, and brown rice, as well as fruits over the first 14 days. You’ll work up to a daily maximum of three servings of gluten-free whole grains and three fruits. After four weeks of being gluten-free, you’ll be able to gradually reintroduce gluten-containing starches, like whole-wheat pasta, barley, and whole-grain bread, to determine whether or not you are gluten-sensitive. Monitor yourself carefully to see if any symptoms or cravings reappear.
Choosing the Best
There are many excellent whole-grain choices, so how do you choose the healthiest? For starters, when buying whole-grain pastas, breads, and other products, be sure to check that the label says "100% whole wheat," “100% whole oats,” or “100% whole rye.” If the label uses words like “whole wheat,” "multigrain," “3-grain,” “10-grain,” or “100% wheat,” there’s no guarantee that the product is truly whole grain. Avoid breads containing “enriched wheat,” “enriched white flour,” “flour,” or “unbleached flour” because they’re most likely made with refined flour. Also make sure that the product contains at least 3 grams of fiber and no more than 3 grams of sugar per serving, and no trans fats.