Whole Grains: How Food Affects Health

Go with whole grains whenever you have a choice — you’ll get more filling fiber, plus a bounty of necessary nutrients!

It’s a simple fact: Whole grains offer up more fiber, vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients than refined grains, making whole grains the superior choice when it comes to breads, pastas, cereals, and rice. Whole grains contain all three layers of the seed — the fiber-rich bran, the starchy endosperm, and the nutrient-dense germ. To create refined grains (like white flour), the nutritious bran and germ are stripped away, leaving a much weaker product, nutritionally speaking.

Regularly consuming whole grains has been associated with reduced risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, and type 2 diabetes. Eating whole grains can also help with weight loss and maintenance because their high fiber content keeps you feeling full and helps control your hunger.

Whole grains contain many other nutrients, including a host of B vitamins. B vitamins help your body get the energy it needs from food, and they also promote heart health, regulate mood, combat PMS symptoms, and may help slow the rate of age-related cognitive decline.

The vitamin E in whole grains, along with zinc and niacin, can help boost eye health, reduce your risk of cataracts and macular degeneration, and slow the progression of vision loss. Vitamin E and zinc also help keep your skin beautiful, and zinc contributes to healthy hair.

Magnesium in some whole grains may benefit people who suffer from migraines or PMS, or who are at risk for type 2 diabetes or high blood pressure. Some whole grains also contain selenium, an antioxidant that helps nourish your skin and protects it from sun damage. Selenium may also help prevent arthritis and certain skin cancers.

If you have celiac disease, choose whole grains that don’t contain any gluten. Brown or wild rice, corn, buckwheat, quinoa, amaranth, and millet are safe bets (although it’s always a good idea to read package labels).