Eating more whole grains is an easy way to make your diet healthier and provides multiple health benefits. A diet rich in whole grains has been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, obesity, lowers cholesterol, improves colon health and other multiple chronic health conditions. Keep in mind these benefits are most pronounced in the context of an overall healthy diet.
Whole grains are defined by the Dietary Guidelines of Americans as "foods made from the entire grain seed" consisting of the bran, germ, and endosperm. Whole grains are packed with protein, fiber, B vitamins, antioxidant and the trace minerals, iron, zinc, copper and magnesium. More specifically, it's the bran and germ components of the grain seed that retain all of the essential nutrients that help us feel full longer and provide a more constant source energy. But refined grains, like the flour used to make white bread, have removed these parts of the grain seed , leaving behind the energy-dense but nutrient-poor starchy endosperm.
Look for 100% whole grain on food labels. Ideally, the whole grain will be the first ingredient in the list, indicating that the product contains more whole grain than any other ingredient by weight. Consume at least 3 servings per day in order to experience it's intended health benefits. Despite these proven benefits, the average American eats less than one serving per day, and over 40% never incorporate whole grains in their diet. USDA Dietary Guidelines say whole grains should make up half of your grain intake. For most people, whole grains provide the best source of dietary fiber. Whole wheat contains among the highest amount of fiber yielding 1-4 grams per serving. Women need 25 grams of fiber per day, while men require about 38 grams per day.
Many people have the perception that whole grains just don't taste good, or that it's difficult to incorporate into the family's diet. Fortunately, there is an increase in whole grain options in products ranging from pasta to most cereals. There are also newly reformulated products that use lighter whole wheat to make them look and taste more like white flour. These "white whole grain" products are a great way to transition into eating more whole grains, especially for children.