Diet and Nutrition

Eat Whole Grains to Boost Your Health

Eat Whole Grains to Boost Your Health

Key Takeaways

  • Diets containing whole grains reduce the risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, obesity and certain forms of cancer.
  • Whole grains are rich in protein, fiber, B vitamins, antioxidants and trace minerals like iron, zinc, copper and magnesium.
  • Check ingredients to ensure that the 'whole grain' product you are buying is truly whole grain. It should contain more whole grains than any other ingredient.

Whole grains are the best way to include more nutrients in a diet. They are rich in protein, fiber, B vitamins, antioxidants, and trace minerals, like iron, zinc, copper, and magnesium. Diets containing whole grains reduce the risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, obesity, and certain forms of cancer. Whole grains help to maintain regular bowel movements, and also ensure growth of healthy bacteria in the colon.

An average American has less than one serving of whole grains in a day, especially young adults, and over 40 percent of people never include them in their diet. This is mainly because most of us are not aware of how to get the full benefits of whole grains. Products that mention "multigrain", "100% wheat", "cracked wheat", "organic", "pumpernickel", "bran", and "stone ground" do not actually contain the benefits of whole grains. Many others feel that whole grains do not taste good or that it is difficult to include them in their daily diet. 

Whole grain contains all the edible parts of a grain, including the brain, germ and the endosperm. These can be used as such or recombined; but one should ensure that all the parts are presented in their natural proportions.

Whole grains found in grocery stores include:

  • Whole-grain corn
  • Whole oats or oatmeal
  • Popcorn
  • Brown rice
  • Whole rye
  • Whole-grain barley
  • Wild rice
  • Buckwheat
  • Triticale
  • Bulgur (cracked wheat)
  • Millet
  • Quinoa
  • Sorghum
  • 100 percent whole wheat flour

When someone is buying the processed form of whole grains, it is really hard to tell whether all the benefits and nutrients are intact in the product. Many times manufacturers take out the outer layer of the bran and add molasses, to add brown color, to make it look like whole grain bread. Check the ingredients for the words 'whole grain' to ensure that the product contains more whole grains than any other ingredient.

The daily recommendations of whole grains vary according to age, sex, and physical activity. According to the 2010 USDA Dietary Guidelines, whole grains should make up half of the grain intake for anybody. Women require an average of 25 grams of fiber in a day, while men need 38 grams. If you are getting the recommended amount from your daily diet, supplements may not be needed.

Whole grains can now be found in a number of products including processed foods. There are healthier options in food containing whole grains including pastas and cereals. Many products use lighter whole wheat; with new processing techniques, the grainy taste and look is changed to a better version. Therefore including ‘white whole-grain’ products are a better way to move into a healthier habit.

Whole grains are very rich in fiber, and for most people these are the best source of dietary fiber. The highest amount of whole grains is found in whole wheat and the least in brown rice. Whole grain sources provide 1 to 4 grams of fiber per serving, which is comparable to that provided by fruits and vegetables. Although fiber supplements may provide a good amount of fiber, whole grains gives the additional benefits of a variety of nutrients which is lacking in supplements. Most of us may need some time to get used to the taste of whole grains.

Some ways to add more whole grains to your diet include:

  • Eating whole grain breads, cereals, bagels and crackers
  • Eating popcorn
  • Snack on whole grains like rye-crackers, whole-grain rice cakes and oatcakes
  • Include whole grains in cakes and pastries by blending whole-meal flour with all-purpose flour
  • Have whole wheat bread or blended pasta with a mix of whole and refined grains
  • Try having different types of grains like brown rice, millet, sorghum and barley