Whole grains are the seed or kernel of plants that store nutrients important in our diet and have been shown to have positive health benefits. Unlike refined grains, such as white flour and white rice, whole grains retain the bran, germ, and endosperm of the grain, which provides us with a wealth of nutrients, including fiber, B vitamins, iron, and magnesium. Whole grains are also a great source of antioxidants, which help protect our cells from damage caused by free radicals. Research has shown that diets rich in whole grains can reduce the risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and some forms of cancer. Examples of whole grains include brown rice, quinoa, whole wheat, oats, and barley. By incorporating more whole grains into our diet, we can reap the many health benefits that come with this nutrient-rich food group.
Why are whole grains important?
Whole grains are important sources of beneficial nutrients like protein, fibre, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals. The health benefits associated with eating whole grains were initially attributed to the fibre content. Research now suggests that it is the complete package of vitamins minerals, phytochemicals and fibre that is responsible for its health benefits. Studies show that regular intake of whole grains can help to protect against a number of diseases such as coronary heart disease and also appear to lower the risk of certain types of cancer.
An effective hunger stopper
Whole grain products are not only healthy, but they also have a distinct effect on satiety. If you are watching your weight, it is very important for you to eat foods that make you feel full quickly and for a long period of time. Whole grain products are perfectly suited for this purpose, since they are rich in starches and dietary fibre.
Which foods contain whole grains?
Rye, wheat, rice, barley, oats and corn are types of whole grains found in a range of everyday foods, particularly in breads and cereals. Whole grains can be whole or processed. Even if the grain has been cracked, crushed, ground or extruded, made into flour, bread or cereal, it can still be called ‘whole grain’. Foods must contain 51% by weight of any combination of whole grains to be able to use the term ‘whole grain’.
Tips for how to include more whole grains everyday
- When choosing whole grain products, keep in mind that the greater the percentage of whole grains in a food, the greater the health benefits it provides.
- Choose whole grain or wholemeal breads instead of white bread
- Serve meals with brown rice, wild rice or wholemeal pasta
- Snack on unbuttered popcorn and whole grain crackers
- Choose breakfast cereals that contain whole grains
- Include corn kernels or corn-on-the-cob with a meal
- Add oats to muffins and crumble
This page contains general information and is not intended as a substitute for medical advice. Please consult your healthcare professional for specific advice for your personal situation.