Why Eat Whole Grains?

Have you resolved to eat better in 2011?  After looking at the health benefits of whole grains, you may want to try adding a serving or two to your daily intake.  Although recommendations call for 3 to 5 servings a day, 40% of Americans eat none – ZERO – of these healthy foods.  There are plenty of reasons to incorporate grains in their whole form, which means without valuable portions of the grain removed during processing.

Replacing refined grains with whole grains lowers the risk of many chronic diseases, including heart disease and diabetes.  They are high in fiber, antioxidants, and other nutrients.  Studies show that whole grains also aid in controlling blood pressure and weight.

Some grains, like oats and barley, are high in soluble fiber.  As such, they work to decrease LDL cholesterol and blood pressure and improve blood sugar control.  Grains like wheat contain high levels of insoluble fiber, giving the diet bulk and helping control blood sugar responses and blood pressure.

Let’s look at some of the research-supported benefits of specific grains.

  • Barley was found to lower total and LDL cholesterol levels compared to control groups.
  • Quinoa and buckwheat seeds and sprouts can be added to gluten-free breads to increase the nutritional quality.
  • Brown rice, when substituted for white rice, may lower the risk of type 2 diabetes.
  • Whole grain rye products improved blood sugar control in one study.  In another study, rye bread at breakfast decreased hunger feelings at lunch.

Each whole grain has its own nutrition profile with unique benefits.  Future research will likely provide more reasons to eat a variety of them.  If you have been “carbo-phobic” in the past, it may be a good idea to broaden your perspective of grains.  Like many foods, particularly high-carb foods, there are healthy ones and others that are best eaten only occasionally.  For many of us, 2011 is a good time to expand our selection of healthy whole grains.

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