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What are the nutritional benefits of eating whole grains?

Livia Ly
Nutrition & Dietetics
You will need to check the nutrition facts. Most people assume products with whole-grain messaging are a good source of fiber but this is not the case. Make sure the product has at least 3g of dietary fiber/serving. High fiber diets are associated with: improving blood lipid concentrations, lowering blood pressure, helping with weight management, improving glucose tolerance and insulin response, maintaining a healthy digestive system, and reducing cancer risk.
Elaine Koontz
Nutrition & Dietetics
Research has linked whole grains with prevention of cancer, heart disease, and diabetes. Studies also show that a diet containing whole grains is associated with a lower body weight.

Whole grains contain carbohydrate, B vitamins, iron, zinc, magnesium and copper. They are also often a good source of fiber and contain antioxidants.

Remember that whole grain foods are not necessarily high in fiber, and vice versa. You still need to remember to aim for 14 grams of fiber per 1000 calories consumed each day.
Jessica Crandall
Nutrition & Dietetics
Whole grains are an essential part of a well-balanced diet and are a great source of fortified B vitamins, fiber, Vitamin A, Iron, and Zinc. Throughout your day, making half of your grains whole is a part of the new MyPlate guidelines (www.choosemyplate.gov) and will help you to meet your daily goal of at least 30 grams of fiber. Fiber has many health benefits including: normalizing bowel health and integrity, lowers blood cholesterol levels, helps maintain normal blood sugar levels, aids in weight loss, and possible positive effects on colorectal cancer.

For more information on how to meet your whole grain needs visit http://www.choosemyplate.gov/food-groups/grains.html. 
Sarah Worden
Nutrition & Dietetics

Whole grains provide an array of benefits!  Here is a list of a few:

  • They fill you up. Whole grains are higher in fiber & protein, both of which help to make a person feel full.
  • They provide nutrients. The "whole" part of the grain is where all the vitamins & minerals are. The refining process removes much of the nutrition.
  • They keep your heart healthy. The fiber in whole grains help to remove cholesterol from your body.
  • They protect from cancer. The fiber in whole grains help to keep your colon healthy by assisting with motility of contents through the colon, lowering the risk of colon cancer.
  • They help keep you regular. Fiber is important in keeping you "regular". The fiber in whole grains help move food through your colon, assisting with regular bowel movements.

Whole grains have a WHOLE lot of benefits!

Amy Jamieson-Petonic
Nutrition & Dietetics
The nutritional benefits of whole grains are amazing! Whole grains, including all 3 parts of the grain (the bran, the germ, and endosperm) provide a number of vitamins and minerals that are bodies need for normal, healthy function.

Examples of whole grains include 100% whole grain pasta, brown rice, quinoa, and oats and corn. One of the coolest things about eating whole grains is that they can help reduce inflammation in the body, and reduce risk of heart disease, diabetes and other conditions.
Marilyn Ricci, M.S., R.D.
Nutrition & Dietetics
The nice thing about eating more whole grains is that they can fill you up without eating a lot of calories. It is not often you hear dietitians say "Eat More". But this is a food group that is worthwhile to increase in your daily food plan.

Fiber prevents constipation which can be a big issue, especially if you are on some medications that bind you up. It takes some time to eat a high fiber food which usually means less total calories consumed. For example, compare eating a bowl of oatmeal vs. a doughnut. Try to make all your grains whole grains -- you'll feel better.
 
There are three edible parts in a kernel of grain; whole grains contain all three parts of the kernel.
  • The bran is the outer shell of the wheat kernel. It is rich in fiber, B vitamins, phytochemicals, and trace minerals such as chromium and zinc.
  • The germ, or seed of the kernel, is a nutritional powerhouse, providing vitamin E, heart-healthy fats, phytochemicals, and B vitamins.
  • The endosperm, the starchy component of the grain, contains protein, B vitamins, and some fiber, although not as much as the bran.
In refined grains, such as white bread and white rice, the grain kernel goes through a milling process that strips all but the endosperm away.

Eating whole grains helps fight disease; including whole grains in your diet may help lower the risk of dying from heart disease or cancer and reduce the risk of stroke. The fiber in whole grains may also help reduce the risk of diabetes.

Over 85% of Americans’ grain choices are not whole grains, but refined grains. Whereas the current recommendation is to consume at least three servings of whole-grain products every day, Americans eat less than one serving of whole grains daily, on average.
Michael T. Murray, ND
Naturopathic Medicine
Whole grains are a major source of complex carbohydrates, dietary fiber, minerals, and B vitamins. The protein content and quality of whole grains are greater than that of refined grains. Diets rich in whole grains have been shown to be protective against the development of chronic degenerative diseases, especially cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and varicose veins; and diseases of the colon, including colon cancer, inflammatory bowel disease, hemorrhoids, and diverticulitis. More specifically, the ability of whole-grain foods to improve insulin sensitivity may be an important mechanism through which whole grains reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

In a recent study at Harvard Medical School, eleven overweight or obese subjects were made to follow a diet that included six to ten servings a day of breakfast cereal, bread, rice, pasta, muffins, cookies, and snacks. For six weeks, the subjects received these foods made from whole grains; then, for another six-week period, they ate foods made from refined grains. After each six-week trial period, the subjects consumed a liquid mixed meal, after which their blood samples were taken over a two-hour period. After the whole-grain diet, not only was the subjects' fasting insulin 10 percent lower as compared to the refined-grain diet, but two hours after the meal, their insulin curve was lower, which means that they secreted less insulin. In addition, a test performed the next day found that their rate of glucose infusion was higher, showing that more glucose was being delivered to the cells for use as energy.
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Molly Morgan
Nutrition & Dietetics

Eating whole grains has many benefits including: keeping your full, slowing down digestion, increasing nutrient absorption, slowing blood sugar rises from eating carbohydrate rich foods, decreasing cholesterol levels. When you look at all of the great things whole grains can do for your body, it is a pretty impressive list! Make it your goal to have half OR MORE of your grains every day from whole grains. Whole grains include: whole wheat products, farro, quinoa, corn, wild rice, brown rice, bulgur. Think beyond the basics and try to vary the types of whole grains you choose to keep your taste buds interested!

Judith Mabel
Nutrition & Dietetics
Whole grains contain many important things that are removed during the refining process. The most critical are fiber and minerals. We tend to eat less than optimal amounts of fiber and this results in constipation and dysbiosis (the wrong bugs living in our guts). Most of us are also deficient in magnesium (heart health, bones and energy). You can start eating whole grains by eating bread with some of each grain -- whole and refined. You can also add grains like millet and quinoa to salads or cereals. When looking for whole grain bread, read the list of ingredients carefully. Whole grains should be the first ingredient listed on the label.
Judy Caplan
Nutrition & Dietetics
Whole grains, like the words say, are whole meaning that they contain all three parts of the wheat kernel: the bran, the germ, and the endosperm. All three parts contribute fiber and protein plus B vitamins and minerals. Whole grains keep you full and your blood sugar stable.
Anna Pace
Nutrition & Dietetics
There are numerous benefits of eating whole grains: 
  1. With minimal processing, whole grains provide you with the abundant vitamins, minerals, and fiber that nature intended! When grains go through processing, these precious nutrients are significantly reduced or stripped completely away from the grain. 
  2. Whole grains are heart healthy. Eating more whole grains can help decrease LDL cholesterol and reduce the risk of cardiac events. 
  3. Whole grains can help stabilize blood sugars, allowing for a consistent and even flow of energy throughout the day. Choosing more whole grains can help reduce your risk of diabetes. 
  4. Healthy colons depend upon adequate supply of fiber from our diets; whole grains are a wonderful source of fiber.
  5. The fiber in whole grains can also assist with weight control by keeping you full between meals.
Whole grains, such as brown rice, bulgur, and quinoa, are an important part of a healthy, balanced diet. Try incorporating more whole grain in your diet today! 
Whole grains have many nutrients that are important for a healthy body, including a strong immune system and bones. Examples of nutrients found in whole grains are B vitamins, copper, iron, magnesium, phosphorous, selenium and zinc. Whole grains also provide the body with lots of fiber, which can help you lose weight and prevent constipation.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.