Nutrition News: Ground Up Whole Grains and Diet's Effect on Metabolism and Sleep

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The whole truth about whole grains

We know whole grains are good for us, but do they have the same health benefits if they are ground up and used, say, as an ingredient in smoothies or flour in cereals? The New York Times’ Well blog has taken that question to nutrition experts and the answer is, basically, yes. “Whole” grains, in which the bran, the germ and the endosperm are all left intact (as opposed to “refined” grains, where the bran and the germ are stripped away), are beneficial either way.

Some grains lose a bit of their fiber when ground, but taste better that way, the experts say, whereas others, like flax seed, are more nutritious when ground, because the body can absorb them better. The most-important thing, dietitian Maria Elena Rodriguez tells the Times, is to make sure products have three or more grams of fiber per serving and are marked “whole grains.”

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Diet and metabolism

If you have the sense that your diet has messed with your metabolism — that the more weight you lose, the less you can eat without gaining weight — you’re not imagining things. In a Reuters video, Dr. Holly Lofton of NYU School of Medicine explains that it takes less food to power a smaller body — the same way a smaller car needs less gas to propel it than a big tractor-trailer.

“So if you’re going from a larger mass to a smaller mass, your metabolic rate will be less,” she says. The best way to lose weight without messing up your metabolism too much, she says, is to have protein in your diet. This will keep you from losing muscle in addition to fat.

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Lose to snooze?

Your body weight and diet may also affect your sleep. Researchers at University of Pennsylvania have determined that overweight adults spend a higher percentage of their sleep time in the REM stage of sleep — the stage where you dream, your heart beats more quickly and you breathe faster and that is characterized that is “less restorative” than non-REM stages of sleep.

What’s more, the researchers found, those who ate more protein tended to have less stage 2 sleep — the phase when heart rate and breathing are fairly normal and body temperature lowers slightly — and more REM sleep as well.

Amy Reiter is a writer and editor based in New York. A regular contributor to The Los Angeles Times, she has also written for The New York Times, The Washington Post, Glamour, Marie Claire, The Daily Beast and Wine Spectator, among others, as well as for Salon, where she was a longtime editor and senior writer.