Health experts recommend at least three servings per day of whole grains, but many of us aren’t sure how to increase our intake. The good news is that you can get your whole grains without making big changes in the foods you eat or the time you spend preparing them.
You may already be eating more whole grains than you think. Oatmeal is a whole grain (even quick oats) and so is popcorn. Your favorite breakfast cereal may already contain large amounts of whole grain. If you haven’t already, switch your bread to one of the many available whole grain breads, or try whole grain English muffins.
At dinner, try brown rice or bulgur instead of white rice. Bulgur cooks in just 10 to 12 minutes, and several companies now offer quicker-cooking brown rice, making whole grains easy to fit into your busy day. Many new brands of whole grain pasta are now available, and every day companies are introducing new whole grain bake mixes, cookies, and crackers.
A growing number of studies show that people who eat at least three servings of whole grains each day significantly reduce their risk of heart disease, stroke, and some kinds of cancer. What’s more, whole grains help you maintain a healthy weight. In one study, for instance, a team led by Dr. Pauline Koh-Banerjee studied diet and health records of 27,082 men and found that those who ate 40 grams of whole grains per day cut middle-age weight gain by up to 3.5 pounds. Just one cup of cooked oatmeal or two slices of whole-wheat bread would provide this amount of whole grain.
Other new research shows that whole grains are surprisingly high in antioxidants, which protect us from aging and disease. Dr. Riu Hai Liu of Cornell University found that whole grains contain protective antioxidants in quantities rivaling or exceeding those in fruits and vegetables. Corn, for instance, has almost twice the antioxidant activity of apples, while wheat and oats almost equal broccoli and spinach in antioxidant activity.
Load up your grocery cart with a variety of delicious whole grain foods, and reap the benefits in taste and health. For more information on whole grains, including recipes and health research, visit the Whole Grains Council at wholegrainscouncil.org.