A new study, published in JAMA Internal Medicine, suggests that eating more whole grains is linked to reduced mortality, especially deaths due to cardiovascular disease. Researchers, studying the association between eating whole grains and risk of death, looked at data from two large studies – the Nurse’s Health Study and the Health Professionals Follow Up study. Following and monitoring the diets and health outcomes of over 115,000 people for more than 20 years , they found that those who ate the most whole grains had a significantly lower risk of mortality from heart disease and stroke. This adds to the many studies that point out the benefits of eating whole grains. It used to be thought that it’s the fibre that provides the benefits but this is only partly true. The vitamins, minerals and hundreds of plants chemicals in whole grains all work together with the fibre to lower risk of diseases.
Here are some whole grain facts:
- Whole grains are made from the entire grain seed – the outer bran layer (where most of the fibre is), the nutrient-rich germ layer that contains important vitamins, minerals and plant chemicals and the endosperm that contains the starch.
- Whole grains can be a single food such as buckwheat or oatmeal or it can be an ingredient in another food such as bread or cereal. Whole grains include whole wheat, oats, corn, barley, brown rice, quinoa, buckwheat groats (kasha), bulgur, kamut, spelt and flax.
- Refined grains have some or all of their bran and germ layers removed, leaving only the starchy endosperm. While enriched grains will have some of the goodness added back, they will never be as nutritionally complete as the original whole grain.
It may surprise you to know that you can’t always count on your 100% whole wheat bread to be a whole grain. That’s because under current regulations, products labelled whole wheat can actually have as much as 70% of the germ removed.
So, how do you know if your bread, cereal or crackers are predominantly whole grain? The best way is to read the label.
- Look for “whole grain, whole wheat” or “whole wheat flour with added germ” as the first ingredient on a product.
- “Enriched flour” and “wheat flour” are not whole grains.
- Brown bread can get it’s colour from molasses or other ingredients and is often made from refined flour.
- When the label says “multigrain” or “seven grain”, check the ingredient list to see what the largest ingredient is. The grains may be refined.
- If the label says, “made with whole grains”, make sure that the whole grain is first on the ingredient list.
- High fibre does not always mean whole grain. Again, check the label.
Four simple tips for eating more whole grains:
- Start the day with a bowl of oatmeal.
- Serve your stir fry on a bed of brown rice.
- Try a quinoa, bulgur or barley salad as a side dish.
- Switch your bread, pita, tortilla or rolls from white to whole grain and your pasta to whole wheat.