Benefits of Whole Grains

Matt Mitzel, CDM, CFPP
Aldersgate Village, Topeka, Kansas

Whole grains, or foods made from them, contain all the essential parts and naturally-occurring nutrients of the entire grain seed in their original proportions. If the grain has been processed (e.g., cracked, crushed, rolled, extruded and/or cooked), the food product should deliver the same rich balance of nutrients that are found in the original grain seed. This means that 100% of the original kernel—all of the bran, germ, and endosperm – must be present to qualify as a whole grain.

Studies show that eating whole grains instead of refined grains lowers the risk of many chronic diseases in older adults. While benefits are most noticeable 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!

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. A whole grain cookie is better for you than a refined grain one (all other ingredients being equal), but it’s still a cookie!

The benefits of whole grains most documented by repeated studies include a reduced risk of stroke, Type 2 diabetes and heart disease; and a better ability to maintain weight. 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.

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