Whole Grains: The Top Five Benefits

by ALEX McDONALDContributor

On average, less than 1% of Americans eat the daily recommended amount of whole grains.   The 2015 Dietary Guidelines recommends eating at least half of your grains, or about 3 servings, over the course of the day as whole grains. Carbohydrates have been recently getting a bad rap, but whole grains can act as an essential part of a nutritious and fueling diet while improving health in the long run. Here’s how:

Improved Diet Quality:

Packed with natural sources of fiber, B vitamins, iron, magnesium, selenium, and healthy fats and protein, whole grains are diet power houses and are linked to a better diet quality overall. To obtain a more desired texture and longer shelf life, grains are often stripped of their germ and bran during processing to produce refined grains, such as those used to make white breads, pastas, and bakery items. However, these parts contain the bulk of grain’s beneficial nutrients. Although some of these vitamins and minerals are replaced after processing, refined grains still lack a lot of the beneficial fiber, healthy fats, and protein present in whole grains.

Reduced Risk of Heart Disease:

Many studies link whole grain intake to lower rates of heart disease. In fact, one study found a 25-30% reduction in risk with regular intake. More specifically, whole grains and their high fiber content have been shown to help lower both total and bad cholesterol levels and maintain a healthy blood pressure, all contributing to overall heart health.

Weight Management:

The lower glycemic index, caloric density, and satiating factor of whole grains are proven to aid with long-term weight management. In study after study, a relationship has been found between whole grain consumption and lower BMI, improved weight regulation, and even less adipose tissue (or belly fat) accumulation.

Type 2 Diabetes Prevention:

The link between whole grains and lower rates of type 2 diabetes has also been studied. Whole grain have shown to help with the prevention of type 2 diabetes.  Its benefits are attributed to its effects on fasting and post meal blood sugar control and insulin response, in addition to reductions in inflammation.

Improved Digestion:

Daily intake of whole grains has a positive impact on prebiotic composition, which contributes to a healthy gut and more effective immune system. The flavonoids, vitamin, and saccharide content of whole grains can likely be thanked for this.

Everyday, make whole grains a staple at each meal as best you can. Delicious options include 100% whole wheat or whole grain bread, 100% whole wheat wraps (in the deli station), whole-grain cereals, like hot oatmeal, and whole grains, like quinoa, freekeh, farro, bulgur and barley.