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updated: 3/21/2012 8:18 AM

Bread and cereal just the start of whole-grain options

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  • A woman grinds quinoa in Bolivia. The grain is gaining fans as people search out more whole grains for their menus

      A woman grinds quinoa in Bolivia. The grain is gaining fans as people search out more whole grains for their menus
    Associated Press File Photo

 

Q. I want to eat more whole grains, but besides changing my bread and cereal, what else can I do?

A. Brown rice, as well as whole-wheat pasta and whole-grain tortillas, are just the beginning of ways to add whole grains to your meals. There's also wheat bulgur, whole-wheat couscous, quinoa (high in protein and gluten-free) and teff, an Ethiopian grain used in their "injera" flatbread. Corn kernels are classified as a vegetable, but whole-grain cornmeal and polenta are whole grains. Amaranth is another high-protein, gluten-free whole grain.

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These whole grains can be cooked in just 10 to 20 minutes, but some whole grains take longer to cook, such as barley, wheat berries and wild rice. Freekeh ("free-kuh") is an ancient whole grain (usually wheat) that's new on the scene for most of us. It is harvested when still green, then roasted and rubbed, which reportedly delivers a uniquely smoky-nutty flavor that works well as a side dish and in soups and stews. You won't find it everywhere yet, but availability is growing. It cooks in about 25 to 30 minutes.

Many people think of whole grains principally as a source of fiber, which is important now that evidence is even stronger about the role foods high in fiber can play in reducing risk of colon and breast cancers. But whole grains' role in protecting our health is much more. Compared to refined grains, they contain more protective antioxidant compounds and whole grains also have higher levels of magnesium and vitamin B-6, nutrients that are low in many Americans' diets.

Q. Can eating disorders occur even in middle age?

A. Absolutely! In fact, incidence of eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia, as well as disordered patterns of eating and problems with distorted body image, may be increasing among middle age and older adults that many consider low risk.

Eating disorders and disordered eating patterns often flare up at times of transition in life in an effort to feel in control of something. Clinicians treating eating disorders report that many adults seeking treatment are those who had eating disorders earlier in life, whether or not they were actually diagnosed or treated, though some may first develop them later in life.

Stress related to divorce, infidelity, job loss or change, or kids leaving the nest are possible triggers. Women of all ages are especially targeted in cultural messages that place extremely high value on thinness.

For vulnerable women, that can give messages about the health benefits of limiting midlife weight gain an undesirable emotional impact.

Changing self-talk and avoiding restrictive diets can help steer away from sliding into an eating disorder, but once one has developed, treatment from a multidisciplinary team of qualified professionals is essential. Regardless of age, appropriate treatment works. The National Eating Disorders Association lists some questions to ask when considering treatment options.

Research is clear that overweight and obesity increase risk of Type 2 diabetes, heart disease and cancer. But reducing that risk does not mean pushing weight to unrealistically low and unhealthy levels that require rigid rules for "perfect" eating. Most importantly, we all need to be clear that excess body fat defines a health risk, not who you are as a person.

• Provided by the American Institute for Cancer Research, aicr.org.

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