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The Whole Truth About Whole Grains

11 reasons to make the switch now

2. They reduce mortality rates.

After analyzing data from more than 15,000 people aged 45-65, researchers from the University of Minnesota School of Public Health found that as whole-grain intake went up, total mortality (the rate of death from all causes) went down.

3. They help reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes.

The Nurses' Health Study found that women who ate more than 5 grams of fiber from whole-grain cereals daily had about 30% less risk of developing type 2 diabetes than those who ate less than 2.5 grams of whole-grain fiber a day.

Other research found that women who ate a diet low in cereal fiber and high on the sugar (glycemic) index doubled their risk of type 2 diabetes.

4. They help control weight.

One study found that women who ate three or more servings of whole-grain foods a day had significantly lower body mass indexes (BMIs) than those eating less than one serving a day. (This was found in men, too, but the link was more significant in women.)

Another study found that women whose diets included the most whole grains were half as likely to gain a lot of weight over a 12-year period as those who ate the least whole grains. This slimming effect was seen even in teens.

5. They may protect against metabolic syndrome.

Research has found that metabolic syndrome -- a condition that raises the risk of diabetes, heart disease, and stroke -- was found much less often in people who ate the most cereal fiber and whole grains compared with those who ate the least.

6. They reduce risk of heart disease.

At least 25 studies have found that people who regularly eat whole grains have a lower risk of heart disease.

"The evidence is quite consistent and convincing that people who eat at least one serving of whole grains a day have a lower risk of heart disease and stroke," reports Mark Pereira, PhD, a nutritional epidemiologist at Harvard Medical School.

In studying the dietary habits of male health professionals, researchers found that for every 10 gram increase in cereal fiber eaten each day, the risk of heart attack was reduced by nearly 30%. A more recent study found this beneficial effect is even stronger in women.

8. They cut cholesterol levels.

Researchers at Northwestern University Medical School in Chicago found that adding oats to an already low-fat diet helped women cut their blood cholesterol by an additional 8 or 9 mg/dL after only three weeks. (That came on top of the 12 mg/dL reduction seen with the low-fat diet alone!)

Antioxidants found in oats cut cholesterol by suppressing the molecules that make blood cells stick to artery walls. When these cells stick to artery walls and cause inflammation, plaque deposits build up and narrow the passageways where blood flows, leading to "hardening of the arteries."

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