We all know grains are good but there is more to the grains story than that. What are the health benefits of consuming whole grains? What makes a grain, whole? What are common sources of whole grains? This article will answer these questions and give you all the information you need to understand the whole story on whole grains and how to include them in your diet.
What are whole grains?
Whole grains are the entire grain seed of a plant. They can be consumed as a single food, such as oatmeal, brown rice, barley, or popcorn, or used as an ingredient in a food such as whole wheat flour in bread or cereal. The fiber content of different whole grain foods can vary considerably, depending on the food category and serving size. Some research demonstrates that the health-promoting effects of whole grains are attributed to more than fiber.
Refined grains differ from whole grains in that they have been milled to remove the bran and the germ from the grain. A diet that incorporates both whole and refined grains can provide balanced nutrition.
What are the health benefits of whole grains?
Eating a diet rich in whole grains may provide many health benefits including reduced risk of type 2 diabetes, weight management, digestive health, and maintaining normal blood glucose levels. Additionally, studies continue to show that including enough whole grain foods as part of a healthy diet may help with heart disease prevention and management. Researchers have even observed that diets rich in whole grain foods tend to decrease LDL cholesterol (the “bad” cholesterol), triglycerides, and blood pressure, and increase HDL cholesterol (the “good” cholesterol).
What are sources of whole grains?
There are many different types of whole grains including whole wheat, whole oats, whole grain cornmeal, popcorn, brown rice, whole rye, whole-grain barley, wild rice, buckwheat, triticale, bulgur (cracked wheat), millet, quinoa, and sorghum.
Whole grains can be found in a wide variety of foods such as oatmeal and quinoa, or they can be used as an ingredient in a food, such as whole-wheat flour in bread, cereal or grain bars. Other less common whole grains include amaranth, emmer, farro, grano (lightly pearled wheat), spelt, and wheat berries.
How many whole grains should I consume?
The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans  recommend consuming at least half your grains as whole grains. This means that at least three ounce-equivalents of whole grains per day are necessary to achieve the dietary recommendation of making half your grains whole. Here are three easy ways to meet the recommendation:
1. Consume 3 ounces of 100% whole grains and 3 ounces of refined grains.
2. Consume 2 ounces of 100% whole grains, 2 ounces of partially whole grain products, and 2 ounces of refined-grain products.
3. Consume 6 ounces of partly whole grain products.
What are some meal ideas that could incorporate whole grains into my diet?
– Steel cut oats with nuts and peaches
– Breakfast burrito made with whole wheat wrap
– Whole grain cereal with milk and banana
– Mediterranean salad with whole wheat cous cous garbanzo beans, feta, tomatoes, and cucumber
– Quinoa salad with black beans, salsa and cheese
– Chicken curry with brown rice
– Whole wheat linguine with peppers and ground turkey
– Yogurt with toasted barley granola