“People who eat white bread have no dreams.”

That quotation is from Diana Vreeland. Yes, Vreeland was a fashion icon, not a nutritionist or a psychoanalyst. But a new study shows that her disdain for white bread may have been a smart health strategy.

Women who eat lots of white bread and other refined carbs have more than double the heart disease risk, reports a study out this week in the Archives of Internal Medicine. (This effect didn’t apply to the male subjects, whose cardiovascular risk didn’t change regardless of their carbs’ quality or quantity.)

The researchers on the new study used the Glycemic Index, a measure of how a particular food will affect your blood sugar in the two hours after you eat it. To earn a low-GI score, a food must digest slowly, gradually releasing glucose into your system. In contrast, high-GI foods, like white bread, digest too easily; they spike your blood sugar, which signals your pancreas to produce more insulin.

But not all carbs are created equally; for instance, whole grains have low-GI scores. According to the Whole Grains Council, a diet high in whole grains has been shown to cut your risk of diabetes and overweight/obesity – for men and women – and has been linked to a lower risk of asthma and certain cancers.

What exactly are whole grains? They’re just what the name promises: the whole thing – bran, germ and endosperm – with all of their natural fiber, vitamins and minerals intact.

But buyers beware: not all breads and cereals are what they appear. The ingredient list should have ‘whole wheat,’ ‘whole rye’ or ‘whole some other grain’ among the first listed. Brown rice, oats and wheatberries are also acceptable.

‘Enriched’ or ‘bromated’ flours, common in white bread and other baked goods, are not whole grains. Terms like ‘multigrain’ and ’100% wheat’ can be misleading; you can have multiple grains that are all refined, just as you can have 100% bran-free wheat. To make shopping easier, look for a Whole Grain Stamp.

Whole grains have rich flavors, and there are so many to explore:

  • Replace your dinner’s white rice with nutty quinoa.
  • Make your pancakes healthier and bolder with buckwheat.
  • Try some tabouli, the popular Mediterranean dish that spices up whole bulger wheat with parsley, lemon, olive oil and garlic.
  • Check the whole-foods section of your supermarket for cereals and crackers made with delicious, protein-rich amaranth.
  • Popcorn counts as a whole grain too. Movie theater popcorn can be packed with calories and saturated fats, so consider air-popping it at home and going easy on the butter.

Those are some yummy ways to reclaim your dreams.

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