If you’ve been avoiding all carbs in the hopes of shedding a few pounds, you may need to rethink your strategy. Fiber-rich hearty grains such as oats and rye can actually lower your risk of weight gain.
These findings come from a recent study by Molecular Nutrition and Food Research, in which researchers tested the effects of fiber and a western diet on mice. Two groups of mice were fed western diets enriched with either oat or rye bran, one group was fed a western diet low in fiber, and another received laboratory “chow.” Upon analyzing the data, investigators found that both oat and rye were linked to lower body weight gain. In fact, mice that consumed the fiber-rich food gained 59 percent less weight than those receiving a fiber-deprived diet.
Mice that consumed high levels of fiber experienced several other health benefits as well. For instance, fiber protected the mice against liver damage caused by the western diet. This in turn reduced hepatic inflammation, or liver inflammation, and improved gut barrier function. The gut barrier (which is also called the intestinal mucosal barrier) allows nutrients to be absorbed and keeps waste molecules within the walls of the intestine.
Mice in the oat and rye groups also tended to have smaller adipocytes than mice in the western diet group. Adipocytes are fat cells, or cells that store energy as fat.
Why might oats and rye be so important to maintaining a healthy weight? These grains contain high amounts of soluble fiber, a type of fiber that dissolves in water and slows digestion. (Insoluble fiber does not dissolve and helps food pass more quickly through the digestive system.) Slowing digestion down is a good thing, as it helps you feel full for a longer period of time.
Furthermore, the fermentation of soluble fiber in the gut produces short-chain fatty acids. These fatty acids stimulate the production of leptin, a hormone that decreases appetite and regulates metabolic rate. Leptin causes the body’s metabolism to speed up after eating, which helps burn more calories.
Consuming oats and rye may be particularly helpful for women who have high blood sugar. According to the Harvard School of Public Health, fiber slows the breakdown of starch into glucose, helping the body maintain steady blood sugar levels instead of promoting sharp spikes. Fiber can also help lower cholesterol by preventing excess lipids from being absorbed into the bloodstream.
A diet rich in oats, rye, and other high-fiber carbohydrates has also been shown to improve long-term health. For instance, the Iowa Women’s Health Study found that women who consumed high levels of whole grains were less likely to die from inflammatory and infectious diseases. A meta-analysis of multiple studies also demonstrated that people who ate 70 grams of whole grains daily were 23 percent less likely to die from cardiovascular disease and 20 percent less likely to die from cancer.
All things considered, a bowl of oatmeal or a piece of rye toast (with nutritious toppings) could be a great start to your day, especially if you are trying to prevent weight gain. Just remember to check the ingredients in your oats and rye; certain additives such as preservatives and simple starches can do more harm than good.
This article originally appeared on our sister site, First For Women.