New research has been published in the Journal of Nutrition finding that eating at least 3 servings a day of whole grains results in lower risk factors for heart disease when compared with eating less than half a serving per day. The researchers studied 3,121 middle-aged adults for 18 years and measured changes in their waist size, HDL cholesterol, triglycerides, blood glucose, and blood pressure every four years. They found during each four-year period that those who ate the recommended 3 or more servings of whole grain per day reaped the following benefits:
- Smaller increases in waist size
- Lower triglyceride levels
- Greater increases in HDL (good) cholesterol
- Better blood sugar control with smaller increases
- Lower blood pressure
When you eat whole grains, you get all the nutritional value they offer. The bran contains most of the fiber, the germ has most of the nutrients, while the endosperm has simple carbs that the plant uses for energy. Refined grains have the bran and germ removed, leaving only the simple carbs that are digested quickly and cause blood sugar to spike followed by an energy crash. On the other hand, fiber from whole grains keeps you feeling full longer and is digested more slowly to keep your blood sugar from rising too quickly. Fiber is also critical for gut health, which in turn affects your immune system. The B vitamins, potassium, magnesium, and antioxidants from the germ help lower blood pressure and keep your heart functioning properly.
The average American is not eating the minimum 3 servings of whole grain per day and is instead taking in around 5 servings of refined grain daily. One serving of grain equals one slice of bread, 1/2 cup of cooked grains or pasta, or three cups of popcorn.
Make the effort to substitute whole grains for refined whenever you can, such as:
- Oatmeal instead of processed cereal or pastries for breakfast
- Brown rice instead of white
- Whole grain pasta instead of white
- Bake with whole grain flour instead of white
- Make or buy whole grain breads
- Add ancient grains like quinoa, farro, or amaranth to your meals
Let whole grains be an integral part of your all or mostly plant-based diet which also includes plenty of fruits and vegetables, beans, nuts, seeds, and healthy fats.