Since the average U.S. adult consumes less than a third of the recommended amount of whole grains, it would be prudent for most of us to increase our consumption. In addition to the endosperm portion of a grain found in refined grains, whole grains also contain the bran and germ layers. Therefore, whole grains contain more nutrients, fiber, and health-promoting phytochemicals.
What exactly are whole grains?
Whole grains are the plant’s entire grain seed. They can be consumed as a standalone food, such as oats, brown rice, barley, or popcorn, or as an ingredient, such as whole wheat flour in bread or cereal. Depending on the food category and serving size, the fiber content of various whole grain foods can vary significantly. Some research indicates that the health benefits of whole grains are not solely attributable to fiber.
On the other hand, refined grains are not as trendy in the world of healthy eating. The bran and germ have been removed from refined grains, such as white rice, white bread, and regular old white pasta, through milling. Obviously, many will tell you that refined grains are unhealthy, but including both whole and refined grains in your diet can provide a nutritionally balanced diet.
Here are some reasons why you should include grains in your diet:
The health benefits of consuming a diet rich in whole grains include a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes, weight management, digestive health, and maintenance of normal blood glucose levels. In addition, studies continue to indicate that consuming enough whole grains as part of a healthy diet may aid in the prevention and management of heart disease. Even so, researchers have observed that whole grain-rich diets tend to reduce “bad” cholesterol (LDL cholesterol), triglycerides, and blood pressure, while increasing HDL cholesterol (“good” cholesterol).
Everyone has likely heard that dietary fiber is beneficial to health. Although you can (and should) obtain dietary fiber from other foods, it would be difficult for the majority of individuals to achieve the recommended fiber intake without whole grains.
Phytocompounds: In addition to fiber, phytocompounds found in whole grains may play an important role in the health benefits of whole grains. Experiments on isolated cells and animals suggest, for instance, that the phenolic acids found in whole grains may boost antioxidant and anti-inflammatory defenses.
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