Unless you have a wheat allergy or an intolerance to certain ingredients in whole grains, such as gluten, you should include them in your daily diet. Whole grains are a good source of essential nutrients, such as fiber, and they also supply your body with carbohydrates, which are crucial for energy production. As with any other food, moderation is key, and choosing the right whole grains is another important piece of the healthy diet puzzle.
What Is a Whole Grain?
Whole grains are foods made from plants such as wheat, rye, barley, cornmeal, rice and oats, according to ChooseMyPlate.gov. To be considered whole, the grain must include the bran, the germ and the endosperm of the plant. Whole grains are more nutritious than refined grains, which have had the bran and germ removed, reducing the overall fiber and nutrient content of the grain.
Whole Grains and Fiber
One of the primary nutritional benefits of eating whole grains is that they are rich sources of fiber, especially when compared to refined grains. Fiber aids in normal digestion and can prevent constipation. A slice of whole-wheat bread, for example, contains 1.9 grams of fiber, while a slice of white bread contains just 0.7 grams. A cup of whole-wheat spaghetti contains 6.3 grams of fiber, compared to the 2.5 grams in white spaghetti. Bulgur, quinoa, couscous and oats are other examples of nutritious whole grains.
More Benefits of Whole Grains
In addition to the fiber and other nutrients, such as iron, that whole grains provide, you'll reap certain health benefits when you make them part of your daily diet. Eating whole grains is associated with a reduced risk of Type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and certain types of cancer, according to the Harvard School of Public Health. Whole grains can also help with weight management, according to ChooseMyPlate.gov, because they digest more slowly than refined grains, leaving you feeling full and satisfied for a longer period of time.
Making the Right Choices
When shopping, read ingredient labels closely. Opt for foods that list whole grains as the first ingredient to be sure the food is actually a good source. You should also look for information about the calorie and sugar content of the food. According to the Harvard Gazette, some whole-grain foods, such as certain brands of whole-wheat bread, still contain a large amount of added sugar, often in higher amounts than refined versions. You'll still get the benefits of the whole grains from these foods, but all that added sugar can detract from them. The Harvard Gazette also reports that other whole grains can be higher in sodium than refined versions.
- Harvard School of Public Health: Health Gains from Whole Grains
- ChooseMyPlate.gov: Why Is It Important to Eat Grains, Especially Whole Grains?
- ChooseMyPlate.gov: What Foods Are in the Grains Group?
- USDA National Nutrient Database: Fiber Content of Selected Foods
- Harvard Gazette: 'Whole Grain' Not Always Healthy