It’s easy to integrate healthy whole grains into your daily meal plan to help reduce your risk of chronic disease

Whole grains: a gold mine of fiber and nutrients: it’s easy to integrate healthy whole grains into your daily meal plan to help reduce your risk of chronic disease

Whole grains have become superstars of the nutrition world because they help protect against many chronic health conditions including cancer, heart disease, obesity, and diabetes. Three of your six daily servings of grains should be whole grains, according to current dietary guidelines from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

“Whole grains are beneficial for your digestive tract. They also decrease your risk of heart disease by reducing your cholesterol levels, and they can help you maintain a healthy weight,” says Nicole Greene, RD, CDN, a clinical dietitian at Mount Sinai School of Medicine.

So where do you find whole grains and how do you integrate them into your diet?

What to look for. Whole grains are now widely available–it’s easy to find brown rice, whole-wheat pasta, and a variety of whole-grain breads and crackers in just about any supermarket. However, labels can be misleading; items that boast “cracked wheat,” “multi-grain,” and “stoned wheat” are often primarily made up of refined grains. Check the Nutrition Facts label for the information you need. For example, when buying whole-wheat bread, “Check the ingredients to be sure the bread is made from whole-wheat flour; ‘enriched’ wheat flour is refined white flour,” says Greene. And check the fiber content–three grams or more of fiber per serving is best. Other whole grains often found in breads include brown rice, oats, rye, and buckwheat. To experiment with textures and flavors, try some of the lesser-known whole grains such as barley, bulgur wheat, or quinoa (pronounced keen-wah); most health food stores carry many varieties. And cooking is simple–most whole grains are boiled in water, the same as rice.

An easy way to three a day. For breakfast, have oatmeal, All-Bran, Wheaties, or Grape-Nuts, which contain 3 grams or more of fiber per serving and little or no sugar. Use whole-wheat or other whole-grain breads for your lunch sandwich, and make brown rice or wholewheat pasta for your dinner starch.

As with all foods, it’s important to remember portion size: one serving of grains consists of one slice of bread, one cup of ready-to-eat cereal, or 1/2 cup of cooked rice, pasta, or grains.

Whole grains are rich in fiber and contain a variety of nutrients–such as B vitamins, folate, protein, potassium, and zinc–that work in combination to ward off chronic diseases. So whether you buy prepared foods that contain whole grains or cook your own, you’ll be doing your body a favor by choosing whole grains.

Grain Fiber per

serving

(grams) *

Amaranth 2.4

Barley, pearled 2.5

Brown rice 2.5

Buckwheat 1.6

Grain Fiber per

serving

(grams) *

Bulgur wheat 2.9

Millet 1.4

Oats 1.7

Quinoa 0.9

Grain Fiber per

serving

(grams) *

Rye 2.3

Triticale 2.3

Whole wheat 2.0

Wild rice 1.0

* Greene recommends daily fiber intakes of 30-38 grams

per day for men and 2125 grams per day for women.

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