Whole Grains: Heart-Healthy Diet Choices


Whole Grains: Heart-Healthy Diet Choices

Learn why whole grains are better than refined grains and how to add more of them to your diet.

Whole Grains: Heart-Healthy Diet Choices

Grains, especially whole grains, are an essential part of a healthy dietAll types of grains are good sources of complex carbohydrates and some essential vitamins and minerals. The grains are also naturally low in fat. All of this makes cereal a healthy

choice. Its greatest benefit is associated with a reduced risk of heart disease, diabetes, some types of cancer, and other health problems.

The healthiest types of grains are whole grains. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that at least half of all grains you eat should be whole grains. You may already be taking a lot of pills. But is it whole grain? If you're like most people, you don't have enough whole grains in your diet. Find out how to make whole grains a part of your healthy diet.

Grain types

Grains and whole grains are plant seeds that are grown for use in foods. Whole grains and grains come in many shapes and sizes, from large corn kernels to tiny quinoa seeds.

  • Whole grains are unrefined grains from which the bran and seed have not been removed by grinding. Whole grains are the best source of fiber and other important nutrients, such as selenium, potassium, and magnesium. Whole grains are either single foods, such as brown rice and yellow corn, or ingredients in products such as buckwheat in pancakes or whole wheat in bread.
  • Refined grains: Refined grains are milled, a process in which both the bran and the seed are stripped to give it a better texture and longer shelf life. The refining process also removes many nutrients, including fiber. Refined grains include white flour, white rice, white bread, and de-seeded cornmeal. Many pieces of bread, cereals, biscuits, sweets, and pastries are also made from refined grains.
  • Fertilized Grains: Fertilized grains mean that some of the nutrients that were lost during processing have been added back to them. Some of the enriched cereals are cereals that have lost the B vitamins and have them added back in - without adding back the lost natural fibersIncreasing the nutritional value means adding nutrients that are not naturally present in the food. Most of the refined grains are enriched and many grains enriched with other vitamins and minerals, such as folic acid and iron, are raised in value. Some countries require certain refined grains to be fertilized. Whole grains may or may not have high nutritional value.

Choose whole grains

Make at least half of the grains in your diet whole grains. You can find wholegrain types of rice, bread, cereal, flour, and pasta in most grocery stores. Many whole-grain foods are available ready to eat. It includes a variety of bread, pasta, and cereals.

Examples of whole grains include:

  • barley
  • brown rice
  • black wheat
  • bulgur (crushed wheat)
  • millet grains
  • oatmeal
  • popcorn
  • Whole wheat bread, pasta, or crackers
  • wild rice

It is not always easy to mention what kind of grain a product contains, especially bread. For example, brown bread is not necessarily whole wheat - it can get its color from added color. If you are unsure that something contains whole grains, refer to the product label or nutrition informationLook for the word "whole" on the packaging and make sure whole grains are listed among the first items on the ingredients list.

How about white whole wheat bread?

It may seem like it's not added, but in reality, white whole-wheat bread is made from whole grains, just like regular whole-wheat bread. White whole-wheat bread is also nutritionally similar to regular whole wheat bread. So if you prefer the taste and texture of white bread, but want the nutritional benefits of whole wheat, choose white whole wheat bread -- not regular refined white bread.

word of caution

If all the grains you eat are whole grains, you may need extra care to get enough folic acid, a B vitamin. While most refined grain products are enriched, whole grains are not usually enriched with folic acid.

Look for whole grains that are enriched with folic acids, such as some ready-to-eat cereals. Folic acid is also found in other foods, including fruits, vegetables, and legumes. Folic acid is especially important if you are a woman and intend to have children or are pregnant.

How to have more whole grains in your diet

Try the following tips for adding more whole grains to your meals and snacks:

  • Eat a breakfast that contains whole grains, such as whole wheat bran flakes (some bran flakes maybe just bran, not whole grains) and ground wheat or oatmeal.
  • Replace whole-wheat toast or whole-grain muffins with regular bread. Replace low-fat muffins made with whole grains, such as oatmeal or something else, with pastries.
  • Make sandwiches using whole-grain crumbs or rolls. Replace white flour tortillas with whole wheat products.
  • Replace white rice with kasha, brown rice, wild rice, or bulgur.
  • Try adding wild rice or barley to soups, stews, casseroles, and salads.
  • Try adding whole grains such as cooked brown rice or whole-grain breadcrumbs to ground beef or chicken for extra volume.
  • Use oatmeal or crushed whole-grain bran in recipes instead of dry breadcrumbs.

Eating a variety of whole grains not only ensures you get more health-promoting nutrients but also helps make your meals and snacks more exciting.