Winter Quinoa Salad with Fennel and Oranges

Grain-free cookbooks and celebrities may cause a stir, but ask Americans what they really think is healthy and you might be pleasantly surprised. Each year, the International Food Information Council (IFIC) surveys Americans on their attitudes towards health and nutrition. This year, whole grains are way up the list of components considered to be healthful by consumers (84%), following only vitamin D (88%) and fiber (87%). In fact, the percentage of people recognizing whole grains as healthful is significantly higher than last year.

Acting on this knowledge, more than 65% of consumers report that they are eating more foods with whole grains compared to years past. This isn’t hard to do, as quinoa salads and granola parfaits are seemingly around every corner. But while much attention has been given to health conscious millennials, IFIC finds that older adults (ages 50-80) in particular are more likely to eat more foods with whole grains than 18-49 year olds (70% vs. 62%).

Although foodies tout the flavors and textures of whole grains, IFIC finds that American health culture is preoccupied with weight loss. And given the prevalence of diet-related disease in our country, the enthusiasm is not entirely unwarranted. However, most people surveyed (60%) could not name a single food or nutrient associated with weight loss, which could explain why weight is such a struggle for many people across the country. Of course, no one food is a dietary savior or villain. But people who consistently eat balanced diets with whole grains tend to weigh less than people who don’t. In fact, some research suggests that whole grains actually help your body burn more calories, without exercising more.

Following weight loss/weight management, IFIC survey respondents cite heart health as a top motivator for eating healthier. But like a deer in the headlights, Americans are frozen with indecision not knowing what to eat, as half of respondents (49%) could not name a food or nutrient associated with heart health. Again, whole grains may help offer some protection in this department. Researchers have found that increasing whole grain intake by about 3 servings per day is linked with a 19-22% lower risk of heart disease.

To better understand the wide-range of benefits from eating more whole grain foods, check out our new handout, below. You can even print it and stick it on the fridge, for a daily reminder as to why to make more of your grains whole. (Kelly)

This blog was originally posted on the Oldways Table blog on June 20, 2017.

handout showing how whole grains are good for you


Wiliam Dunphy
I am 74, and never much thought about whole grains, or not, until 3 yrs. ago when my doctor told me I was pre-diabetic. Now this confused me because I don't eat candy, sweets, or use sugar, and I never drink soda, and I exercise regularly, so how can I be pre-diabetic ? Well, I looked up on the web what would cause this and the culprit was "white" ! White flour, white rice, white potatoes, and white pasta, so I gave them all up, not a problem in view of the consequences ! I switched to brown rice, I eat rice 2/3 times a week. I gave up white potatoes, not a problem since other than roast turkey time, I seldom eat potatoes, and never French fries. I always loved pumpernickel bread so that's fine, but I dumped the white English muffins, and bagels. I have no problem with the whole grain/wheat pastas, which I only eat a couple of time a month anyways. Long story short, and I know I it's too late to say that, but, end result my "whatevers" are now fine according to my Doctor, for the past 2 yrs. I am no longer pre-diabetic, and hope never to be near it again ! I am still finding great new foods to try thanks to your site, like quinoa, and farrow, and since I enjoy cooking it has opened up a whole new range of cooking. I even bake my own breakfast muffins my favorite being the bran muffins, real old fashioned dark ones like I got as a kid in Boston back in the 50's ! Life is good, and it's not over yet !
Thanks so much for sharing your inspiring story with us, Wiliam! We are so happy to hear that whole grains have helped both your health and your culinary pursuits. Happy cooking!
Jonathan Brower
I eat whole grains. So what else can you help me with. I am 72 years old. I'm mostly eating fruit and vegetables, without using anything else. Lots of yummy food. I don't use drugs. I don't drink alcohol. I run eighty miles a week. What else would you like to know about me? I weigh 123 lbs. I'm 5'9'' and I'm glad to be alive. I'm in the early stages of Alzheimer's. In seven years from now I'll likely be dead, but who knows for sure.
Hi Jonathan -- it certainly sounds like you're on the right track with your diet and lifestyle! I'm sorry to hear that you've been diagnosed with Alzheimer's. I've got the address you sent me and we will mail you one of our menu books for some more culinary inspiration. Happy running and eating from all of us at the Whole Grains Council!
I love pasta, especially orzo. Should I be concerned with it being white pasta ?
Hi Wayne -- While we highly recommend using whole grain pasta because of all the health benefits associated with eating whole grains, many people are surprised to learn that white pasta is a complex carbohydrate and does not cause spikes in blood sugar like other refined-flour-based foods do. If you're interested in learning more about pasta, carbs and blood sugar, you might enjoy this blogpost we wrote a few years ago:

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