Whole Grains

If heart disease runs in your family, or if you have a hard time feeling satisfied after a meal, whole grains are an important part of your answer. From rice to wheat, whole grains increase satiety and help with weight maintenance and heart disease prevention. 

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans, recommends all adults eat at least half their grains as whole grains. That means you should be eating at least 3 to 5 servings of whole grains daily.

The health benefits for following this counsel are vast. Eating more whole grains has been linked to reduced stroke, lower risk of type 2 diabetes, and reduced heart disease risk by nearly 30%. Whole grains have also been linked to lower colorectal cancer risk, healthier blood pressure, and reduced risk of asthma, according to the Whole Grains Council. Furthermore, whole grains contain good sources of fiber, iron, and magnesium which are needed for digestion, healthy blood levels, and reactive nervous systems respectively.

How to get them in:
With all of these benefits, it is easy to understand the importance of eating whole grains, but making at least half of your grains whole grains may seem difficult. By making a few substitutions at meal times, however, the daily recommendation can easily be reached.

For example, for breakfast, try whole grain cereals, whole wheat toast, or oatmeal. For lunch, use whole wheat bread for sandwiches or whole wheat tortillas. At dinner, use whole grain rice or pasta, and for snacks, try whole grain crackers or unbuttered popcorn. When baking, try replacing white flour with whole wheat flour. If even half of these substitutions are made, your daily intake of whole grains can be upwards of 4 or 5 servings.

Shopping tip:
When grocery shopping, look for products that have the word “whole” or “whole grain” before the grain name on the ingredient list. “Whole wheat flour” means that it has been made from whole grains, but “multi-grain” or “wheat flour” does not. Grains not labeled as “whole” means they have most likely been stripped of beneficial nutritional aspects.

Avoid products with nutritional labels including “enriched,” “degerminated,” “bran,” and “wheat germ” as these labels mean that the grain has been stripped.

For a more comprehensive list of whole-grains and what they contain, click here.