Grains are the seeds of plants from the grass family. Edible grains include wheat, rice, maize (corn), barley, oats, and rye. Whole-grain foods contain the entire grain, including the bran, the endosperm, and the germ. They are a superfood. Whole grains are rich in potentially beneficial compounds, including vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals, such as lignans, phytosterols, and fiber.
Most of these compounds are located in the bran or the germ of the grain, both of which are lost during the refining process, leaving only the starchy endosperm. Compared to diets high in refined grains, diets rich in whole grains are associated with reduced risks of several chronic diseases. Diets rich in whole grains and fiber help prevent constipation and are also associated with decreased risk of diverticulosis, a painful affliction of the intestines.
(Take a look at the "Whole Grains and High-Fiber Foods" video at the bottom of this page which explains why the U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends that at least half of grains consumed daily be whole grains.)
Whole grains include amaranth, barley, brown rice, buckwheat (kasha), flaxseed, millet, oats, popcorn, quinoa, rye, spelt, triticale, whole wheat (wheat berries), and wild rice. Whole grains represent a unique package of energy, micronutrients, and phytochemicals that work synergistically to promote health and prevent disease.
Here are six ways to increase your whole-grain intake:
1. Eat whole-grain breakfast cereals, such as wheat flakes, shredded wheat, muesli, and oatmeal. Bran cereals are not actually whole-grain cereals, but their high fiber content also makes them a good breakfast choice
2. Substitute whole-grain breads, rolls, tortillas, and crackers for those made from refined grains
3. Substitute whole-wheat pasta or pasta made from 50% whole wheat and 50% white flour for conventional pastas
4. Substitute brown rice for white rice
5. Add barley to soups and stews
6. When baking, substitute whole-wheat flour for white or unbleached flour
Whole grains represent a unique package of energy, micronutrients, phytochemicals, and fiber that work synergistically to promote health and prevent disease.
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The following video might helps explain the benefits of whole grains and fiber in your diet: