Eat Whole Grains for a Healthier You

Eat Whole Grains for a Healthier You

Adding more whole grains to your diet is an easy way to get more health benefits from the foods you eat. If you picture a slice of dry wheat bread when you hear the term “whole grains,” don't worry. There’s a whole world of other tasty choices waiting for you. 

Whole grains are a good source of fiber, which can help reduce your risk for heart disease, lower your cholesterol, prevent cancer, and manage your weight to help fend off diabetes. 

Just make sure you are eating whole grains, not refined grains, says Judith Kolish, a dietitian. 

Choose Whole Over Refined Grains 

Grains are made up of three edible parts: germ, bran, and endosperm. A whole grain includes all three parts. Refined grains are processed to remove the healthy parts, the germ and bran. They may be light and fluffier, but they’re not healthier because they lack most of the nutrients and fiber. 

To make sure you're getting the whole grain: 

  • Read the nutrition labels on packaged foods. 
  • Look for the "whole grain" stamp on the package. 
  • Ask for a list of ingredients on non-packaged products. 

Whole grains come in many varieties. Wheat, corn, rice, oats, barley, rye and popcorn are all whole grains. Quinoa (pronounced keen-wah) is also a whole grain. There are even "ancient" whole grains like farro (pronounced fair-o). The refined version of farro is called pearled.

Benefits of Whole Grains 

Whole grains are a good source of disease-fighting nutrients. Whole grains also contain antioxidants such as B vitamins, vitamin E, magnesium and iron, says the Whole Grains Council leaving site icon. People who eat three daily servings of whole grains can cut some health risks, including: 

  • Heart disease (25-36 percent) 
  • Stroke (37 percent) 
  • Type 2 diabetes (21-27 percent)
  • Digestive cancers (21-43 percent) 
  • Hormone-related cancers (10-40 percent)
Beware of False Grains 

You can't necessarily judge a farro grain product by its coloring to know if it's whole wheat, Kolish says. Brown coloring doesn't mean a food is made from whole grain. It might be brown from molasses. 

And don't be fooled by products that say they are multi-grain, stone-ground, seven-grain or made with cracked wheat, bran, or "100 percent” wheat. They may or may not be whole grain. The only way to know for sure is to look for the word "whole." Choose products that list whole grain as the first ingredient on the package. 

It's easy to add whole grains to your diet through recipes like this one for Tricolor Quinoa Pilaf with Peppers leaving site icon, courtesy of FLIK Hospitality Group.  

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Originally published 7/15/2019; Revised 2021