After reading last week’s blog entry about whole grains, how many of you were curious enough to check your loaf of bread or box of cereal?
Realizing how certain terms are used on product labels may have been an eye-opener. Seeing the phrase “made with whole grain” on a label, for example, does not necessarily mean that the product contains 100% whole grains. Who would have thought?
In spite of the potentially confusing label terms, it’s worth making an effort to choose whole-grain foods whenever you can. Why? Well, because they’re good for you. Here are the health benefits of whole grains:
- Preventing diabetes. You may already have diabetes, but you can spread the word to family and friends. In a study of 160,000 women, those who ate 2–3 servings of whole grains every day were 30% less likely to develop Type 2 diabetes than those who ate whole grains infrequently. The same trend holds true for men: Of 43,000 male health professionals, those who ate the most whole-grain foods were 42% less likely to develop diabetes.
- Preventing heart disease. Studies show that people who eat the most whole grains have lower LDL (low-density lipoprotein, or “bad”) cholesterol, lower triglycerides (a type of blood fat), and lower insulin levels than those eating refined grains. And folks who eat 2–3 servings of whole-grain foods every day have a lower risk of having a heart attack or dying from heart disease.
- Preventing cancer. A study of nearly 500,000 men and women has shown that those who eat whole grains are less likely to have colorectal cancer than those who don’t.
- Preventing digestive system problems. Whole-grain foods can help prevent constipation and diverticulosis, a condition in which the large intestine develops pouches that bulge outward.
- Preventing obesity. Eating whole grains has been linked with a lower body-mass index, a lower body fat percentage, a lower waist circumference, and less weight gain compared to not eating whole grains.
- Keeping you in overall good health. Whole grains are great sources of many important nutrients that keep you healthy and fight disease, including B vitamins, fiber, magnesium, manganese, selenium, zinc, copper, and phytonutrients.
This all sounds good, you may be thinking, but what the heck do you do with spelt? In other words, how do you fit whole grains into your everyday eating? Try the following tips:
- Start the day off with a bowl of hot old-fashioned or steel-cut oats. Sure, they may take a little longer to cook, but they’ll nourish you far more than those little packets of the sugary, flavored instant stuff.
- Always choose whole-grain bread for toast and sandwiches. Many restaurants and fast-food chains offer whole-grain breads and rolls, too.
- Serve up brown rice or whole wheat pasta for supper.
- For a change, try a different grain along with your chicken. Barley, wild rice, quinoa, and amaranth are tasty and can help keep boredom at bay.
- Use oats or crushed-up bran flakes in place of bread crumbs.
- Eat pizza made with a whole wheat crust.
- Substitute half the white flour in recipes with whole wheat flour.
- Snack on air-popped or light-style popcorn.
The goal is to aim for at least three servings of whole grains each day. According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, a serving is a slice of bread, one ounce of cold cereal, or a half cup of cooked pasta, rice, or hot cereal.
For more information on whole grains, including more tips and recipes, check out the Web site of the Whole Grains Council.