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Whole Grains & your health

Updated on July 13, 2011

Whole Grains, what is the big deal?

I have always loved grains of all kinds, since a young child. Whole grains contain all the essential parts (naturally occurring nutrients) of the entire grain seed. Many diets today strongly suggest cutting back, or cutting out grains. This may not be the best thing to do considering all the massive benefits that come from having whole grains in your diet. For instance, whole grains can help you eat less as they are filling, and are low in calories. Eating less and healthier means losing weight and feeling better. When you realize how much whole grains are packed with things like phytonutrients, you may think it even silly to cut back on your whole grains. Maybe you are like me and have breads almost every day, but eat too many white breads and refined grains. Read on, to see why changes may be in order.

It may go without saying, but keep in mind its the "additions" to grains, like fillings, toppings, or sauces that can make grains so fattening or high in sugar. Many dieters have noticed they lose more belly fat, for instance if they cut back on calories, and add more whole grains to their diets. This is great news, for stubborn belly fat can be a nuisance for many people.

As for our hearts, whole grains are very healthy to keep in our diets. Some studies have shown that people eating whole grain cereals 7 times a week, had a 28% lower risk for heart problems, and heart failure, than people who had it just once a week. The more days they had the whole grain cereals in their diets, the higher the percentage. With all the great new cereals out there containing whole grains, you are bound to find some you like. I know we have some favorites in our house. Lower blood pressure was another health benefit to having more whole grains in our diets. So the list of benefits just keeps growing...

The phytonutrients found in whole grains are amazing, and there are hundreds of them. These phytonutrients work well with the fiber and other nutrients that are often in whole grains and whole grain products. There are links that have been shown, through studies, that whole grains protect some chronic (and often fatal) diseases, like heart disease, cancers and diabetes.

Many grains have a pleasant nutty flavor to them. Here are some ideas for foods that can replace the more refined grains that may end up in your kitchen. Try some of these:

Whole wheat bread, muffins, and bagels

Brown Rice

Whole grain waffles

Whole wheat pasta

Whole grain granola bars

Brown rice

Oatmeal cookies

Corn Tortillas

Graham crackers

Whole grain cereals (warm and cold)

One other interesting tip for the bakers out there, you can often substitute oats, for up to 1/3 of the flour called for in your recipes. Healthier baking, who wouldn't want that?

You will want to get in the habit of scanning the ingredient list on things you buy if you aren't already. Look for 100% whole grain on the package somewhere, sometimes its stamped and highlighted as such. Also look for whole oats, bulgur, whole wheat, cornmeal, barley, millet, kasha, wheat berries, wheat germ, flaxseed, amaranth, buckwheat, quinoa, rye, rice, colored rice, brown rice, wild rice, sorghum (or milo), teff, and triticale. Also, look for spelt, emmer, farro, einkorn, kamut, durum, wheat berries and cracked wheat. These are all great! I find them very refreshing and the textures are great! The fresher, the better, of course.

By incorporating more of the above suggestions into your daily routine, you will get many more nutrients and health benefits every day you do so. Otherwise, you may be eliminating valuable vitamins, fiber, and protien from your diet. When grains are processed, they should deliver the same rich balance of the nutrients found in the original grain seed, or close to it. Next time you are in the grocery store, check out the awesome whole grain cereals there, and consider trying something new or getting an old favorite that includes whole grains. One of my new favorites is Kashi, Go Lean Crunch, but old favorites include Grape Nuts (with a little honey on top), and various Raisin Brans, etc.


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