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

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 regularly eat whole grains have a lower risk of many chronic diseases. Replacing refined grains with whole grains is can significantly improve total cholesterol, LDL (“bad”) cholesterol, hemoglobin A1c (a measure of blood sugar control) and C-reactive protein (a measure of inflammation). Systematic reviews have found that “higher intakes of whole grains were associated with a 13–33% reduction in the risk for all critical outcomes,” including all-cause mortality, coronary heart disease, stroke, type-2 diabetes, and colorectal cancer. For more details, browse our health studies database or download our 2017 Research Summary Report.

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: