Whole grains are nutritionally superior to refined grains. They are rich in protein, dietary fiber, anti-oxidants, minerals and vitamins. In most grains, the starchy endosperm contains protein, carbohydrates, iron, B-vitamins and fiber. The germ, a tiny speck located at one end of each kernel, contains oil rich in health-promoting omega-3 fatty acids. The bran is one of the best sources of fiber available in the plant kingdom.
Of special significance is the fact that whole grains contain as much as four times more dietary fiber than their refined counterparts. Increasing fiber in the diet has been shown to reduce the incidence of coronary heart disease, obesity and some forms of cancer and diabetes. Studies have also shown that a diet including at least 3 servings of whole grains per day can reduce the risk of developing asthma, lower blood pressure and prevent gum decay. For detailed, up-to-date studies on the various health-promoting aspects of whole grains, visit www.wholegrainscouncil.org.
When whole grains are refined, as much as half of their nutritional value is lost. For this reason, The Dietary Guidelines for Americans, released in January 2005, recommends that all adults eat at least half their grains as whole grains or at least 3 to 5 servings (3 to 5 ounces) per day of whole grains.
Ten Easy Ways to Eat More Whole Grains
Now that you know all the ways whole grains can keep you healthy and happy, find out how to incorporate them into your diet.
- Make sure your breakfast cereal is made from whole grains, but avoid cereals that are high in sugar.
- Substitute brown rice for white rice in your favorite rice salads.
- Use whole-grain pasta (brown rice pasta is especially good) instead of pasta made from refined wheat.
- Use a whole-grain granola for a press-in pie crust.
- Snack on whole-grain cookies and crackers.
- Add some cooked brown rice or bulgur to your holiday stuffing.
- When making meatloaf or burgers, substitute up to a cup of oatmeal for an equivalent amount of ground meat.
- Look for the flaked versions of whole grains since they cook so quickly into pilafs and breakfast cereals. Spelt, rye, barley and oats are among the whole grains available in flaked form.
- Cook whole-grain porridge overnight in a slow cooker. Alternatively, let the grains steep in just-boiled water overnight and finish cooking them in the next day.
- Use a pressure cooker to prepare whole grains in 1/3 the standard cooking time.