Whole Grains 101
Health experts advise everyone – men and women, young and old – that grains are a healthy necessity in every diet, and that it's important to eat at least half our grains as "whole grains."
But what IS a whole grain? And why does it matter?
Whole grains include grains like wheat, corn, rice, oats, barley, quinoa, sorghum, spelt, rye – when these foods are eaten in their "whole" form (more on that later). Whole grains even include popcorn!
You may already be eating whole grains. When you munch popcorn in the theater, or give Toasty-O's to your toddler, or enjoy a bowl of hot oatmeal, you're probably focusing more on the delicious taste than on the fact that these foods are whole grains.
Antioxidants, Vitamins and Minerals
Consumers are increasingly aware that fruits and vegetables contain disease-fighting phytochemicals and antioxidants, but they do not realize whole grains are often an even better source of these key nutrients.
Moreover, whole grains have some valuable antioxidants not found in fruits and vegetables, as well as B vitamins, vitamin E, magnesium, iron and fiber.
Health Benefits of Whole Grains
The medical evidence is clear that whole grains reduce risks of heart disease, stroke, cancer, diabetes and obesity. Few foods can offer such diverse benefits.
People who eat whole grains regularly have a lower risk of obesity, as measured by their body mass index and waist-to-hip ratios. They also have lower cholesterol levels.
Because of the phytochemicals and antioxidants, people who eat three daily servings of whole grains have been shown to reduce their risk of heart disease by 25-36%, stroke by 37%, Type II diabetes by 21-27%, digestive system cancers by 21-43%, and hormone-related cancers by 10-40%.
Help is On the Way
Even consumers who are aware of the health benefits of whole grains are often unsure how to find them and prepare them. The programs of the Whole Grains Council will help you:
Understand what whole grains are
Learn how to identify whole grain products
Find easy ways to enjoy more whole grains