Whole Grains 101

whole grains 101

What are the Health Benefits?

eat whole grains every day

Studies show that eating whole grains instead of refined grains lowers the risk of many chronic diseases. While benefits are most pronounced for those consuming at least 3 servings daily, some studies show reduced risks from as little as one serving daily. The message: every whole grain in your diet helps!

Of course, these benefits are most pronounced in the context of an overall healthy diet. No one food – even whole grains – will guarantee good health. It's also important to remember that some whole grain foods are healthier than others. Plain grains -- from brown rice and quinoa to wheat berries –– and whole grain pasta should be a regular feature on your table, with processed grains eaten less often. Sure a whole grain cookie is better for you than a refined grain one, all other ingredients being equal -- but it's still a cookie!

Check out the Oldways website for overall diet information and inspiration about the health benefits of traditional diets, including the Mediterranean Diet.

The main benefits of whole grains

The benefits of whole grains most documented by repeated studies include:

  • stroke risk reduced 30-36%
  • type 2 diabetes risk reduced 21-30%
  • heart disease risk reduced 25-28%
  • better weight maintenance

Other benefits indicated by recent studies include:

  • reduced risk of asthma
  • healthier carotid arteries
  • reduction of inflammatory disease risk
  • lower risk of colorectal cancer
  • healthier blood pressure levels
  • less gum disease and tooth loss

Summaries of Recent Whole Grain Health Research

To support the deliberations of the 2010 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, Oldways and the Whole Grains Council have compiled a summary of research on whole grains and health that has been undertaken since the 2005 Dietary Guidelines. This PDF report includes information from almost four dozen studies, largely from 2006 to 2008; it augments an earlier compendium from the Bell Institute of Nutrition at General Mills.

Download the 2009 WGC Research Summary (2.8M PDF)

Link to the Bell Institute website, to download "Whole Grain and Health – Get the Whole Story."

Putting the Whole Grain Puzzle Together:
Health Benefits Associated with Whole Grains

In April 2010, the American Society for Nutrition brought together researchers to review the evidence regarding the health benefits associated with whole grains. Current scientific evidence indicates that whole grains play an important role in lowering the risk of chronic diseases, such as coronary heart disease, diabetes, and cancer, and also contribute to body weight management and gastrointestinal health. The findings were published as a supplement to The Journal of Nutrition in May 2011 and made available as a Free Article.

Download the ASN 2010 evidence review (552K PDF)

Whole Grains and Human Health – an Overview

In 2004 (Nutrition Research Reviews, May 2004; Vol 17: 99-110), Dr. Joanne Slavin of the University of Minnesota published a comprehensive article that reviewed and compiled scores of recent studies on whole grains and health, to show how whole-grain intake is protective against cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and obesity.

Download Slavin's evidence review (454K PDF)

Thumbnails of Recent Health Studies

As new research appears linking whole grains to better health, we post short summaries of these studies on the Whole Grains Council website. Click here to see thumbnails of a wide variety of recent studies on whole grains and health.

All information on this website is © 2003-2013, Oldways Preservation Trust/Whole Grains Council, unless otherwise noted.