Do you eat whole grain bread, oatmeal, popcorn, quinoa, or brown rice on a regular basis? If so, you are unleashing the goodness of whole grains! Whole grains are the good carbs we need more of every day. They are beneficial to not only our diet but our overall health and wellbeing. Read on to learn about the types of grains, benefits of whole grains and ways to eat more whole grains.
Types of Grains
Grains, one of the five food groups, are an important part of a healthy diet. Choose more whole grains than refined grains.
Whole grains contain all parts of the grain kernel: bran, germ, and endosperm whereas refined grains only contain the endosperm. The bran and germ contain vitamins, minerals, and fiber. The most common whole grains are corn, buckwheat, oats, quinoa, brown rice, rye, and wild rice. Less common whole grains are amaranth, barley, bulgur, millet, sorghum, teff and farro.
Refined grains have the bran and germ removed, thereby removing the fiber, iron, and B vitamins. Common refined grain products are white flour, corn grits, white bread, pasta, and white rice. Refined grain products should be enriched so the missing vitamins and minerals are added back.
Recommended Amounts of Grains
At least half of your daily grain choices should be whole grains. Children need 3 – 6-ounce equivalents of grains. Adult women need 5-to-8-ounce equivalents and males need 6 – 10-ounce equivalents. An ounce equivalent is a slice of bread, 1 cup of dry cereal or ½ cup cooked rice, pasta, or hot cereal. For more information visit the MyPlate webpage.
Benefits of Whole Grains
Whole grains are the whole package with components that have varying positive effects on the body.
Fiber helps maintain steady blood sugar, lower LDL (bad) cholesterol and prevent the formation of small blood clots that can trigger heart attacks or strokes (1). Increased fiber intake helps prevent constipation and helps you reach and maintain a healthy weight.
The fiber in whole grain foods slows the absorption of food and prevents blood sugar spikes allowing for sustained energy instead of quick energy released from refined grains. The delayed energy keeps you going longer!
People who eat the most whole grains have a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular disease, and obesity (2). Eating whole grains instead of refined grains lowers total cholesterol, LDL (bad) cholesterol, triglycerides, and insulin levels (1). Eating an extra 2 servings of whole grains a day decreased the risk of type 2 diabetes by 21 percent (1).
Other Benefits of Whole Grains
A 2023 systematic review found that a greater intake of whole grains is associated with better cognition and improvements in mood, anxiety, and depression (2). The essential vitamins and minerals in whole grains such as magnesium, zinc and copper can protect against some cancers. Some studies show a protective effect of whole grains on certain types of cancers and digestive health.
Incorporating Whole Grains Throughout Your Day
Unleash the goodness of whole grains by learning how to incorporate whole grains throughout your meals and snacks.
For breakfast, look for cereals with whole grain as their first ingredient and contain 20% or higher of the Daily Value (DV) for fiber. Switch to whole grain bread, bagels, or waffles.
Oats, including instant oats, are rarely refined so have a bowl of oatmeal with fruits, nuts, and seeds for a hearty breakfast! Serve your avocado toast on whole grain bread instead of white bread. View the breakfast blog for more inspiration.
Lunch and Dinner
Making a sandwich? Switch to whole grain bread, whole wheat pita pockets or whole grain tortilla. Looking for a rice substitute? Try barley! It can be used in pilafs, curries, stir-fries, and risottos.
Use quinoa in warm or cold grain salads. Try this quinoa stuffed pepper recipe. Swap white rice for brown, colored, or wild rice for a whole grain swap and fiber boost. Go for whole grain pastas instead of enriched varieties.
Look for whole grain as the first ingredient in grain products such as granola bars and crackers. Popcorn is a popular whole grain snack just watch your toppings!
Try teff, quinoa or rye crackers with a healthy dip, hummus, or salsa. Learn how you can be a smart snacker for ways to snack healthy. Some of your favorite snacks may have a whole grain alternative!
Enjoy the Goodness of Whole Grains
When choosing between refined and whole grains, go for the whole grain option! There are many benefits to incorporating more whole grains into your diet from reduced disease risk to better mental health. Unleash the goodness of whole grains in your kitchen today! How will you incorporate another serving of whole grains into your day?