Wanted: Whole Grains In Your Diet

We’ve all heard the names—quinoa, bulgur, barley, rye and buckwheat—but do these super whole-grains really live up to their healthy reputation? And an even more important question is, are you getting enough of them? Surprisingly, you may fall into the nearly 40 percent of Americans who don’t eat whole grains at all.

In fact, a recent study looked at the results of a national health survey that included more than 9,000 children and adults. The researchers found that too few survey respondents reported eating enough whole grains.

More than half of the people surveyed did manage to eat some whole grains. But only 3% of children and 8% of adults ate 3 ounces a day. Keep in mind, that's the minimum daily amount health experts recommend. On top of that, their favorite whole-grain sources were breakfast cereals, bread, oatmeal and popcorn.

Not All Whole Grains Are Created Equal

Whole grains have essential nutrients for your body. They are an excellent source of magnesium—a bone-building mineral—and selenium—an immune-supporting substance. They also supply a healthy dose of fiber, which aids in digestion and weight control.

In one recent study, researchers looked at some of the most commonly eaten whole-grain products. These include breakfast cereals, granola bars, bread, crackers and chips. They discovered that while many of these foods had whole grains, they came along with high amounts of sugar, sodium and saturated fat.

To find the whole-grain foods that are good for you, always check the nutrition facts label when shopping. That's important even if the packaging boasts about its quantity of whole grains. In particular, choose foods that list whole grains first. Stay away from those that list unhealthy ingredients in the top 3. Keep in mind that words like "multi-grain," "100% wheat," and "bran" also don't guarantee that a food is whole grain.

Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough…Whole Grains

It isn’t as hard as you think to fit more whole grains into your diet. Shoot for at least 3 ounces a day. One ounce is equal to 1 slice of whole-wheat bread or a half cup of cooked oatmeal, brown rice or barley. Here are a few simple tips to help you eat more whole grains:

Swap out refined grain products with whole-grain versions. For instance, choose brown rice instead of white or whole-wheat noodles rather than regular pasta.

Add some barley or quinoa to your favorite soup or salad.

When baking, substitute whole-wheat flour for up to half of the required regular flour.

Bread chicken, veal or fish with rolled oats or crushed whole-grain cereal.

Whole Grains and So Much More

Eating healthy doesn’t mean just sticking to whole grains, it means finding the right diet for you personally. And because each of our bodies has unique needs, our diets should be unique, too. By working with a registered dietitian, you can learn to make better food choices that will leave you feeling and looking great.


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