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The Whole Truth About Whole Grains

11 reasons to make the switch now

9. They reduce blood pressure.

Eating foods containing barley decreases blood pressure and improves several other risk factors for heart disease, according to a recent study. (Other studies of high-fiber, whole-grain foods have also reported significant reductions in blood pressure.)

The researchers also noticed a decrease in total cholesterol (an average of 21% reduction in those eating lots of soluble fiber, such as that found in barley and oats), and "bad" cholesterol. Levels of "good cholesterol" either increased or did not change.

10. They can decrease your risk of stroke.

A recent Harvard study found that a diet with large amounts of whole-grain foods was associated with a decreased risk of stroke in women.

11. They reduce cancer risks.

More than 40 studies looking at 20 types of cancer have suggested that regularly eating whole grains reduces cancer risk.

It's thought that whole grains may accomplish this by blocking DNA damage, suppressing the growth of cancer cells, providing antioxidant protection, and preventing the formation of carcinogens. The particular components of whole grains that may be protective include fiber; antioxidants including vitamins (like vitamin E) and minerals (like selenium); and various phytochemicals.

Among the types of cancer that whole grains help protect against are gastrointestinal cancers such as stomach and colon cancers, along with cancers of the oral cavity, pharynx, esophagus, and larynx.

Your Whole Grain Line-Up

If you're ready to go brown, whole-wheat bread is a great place to start. But don't stop there.

Here are nine common whole-grain foods that you'll probably find at your supermarket:

  • Brown rice
  • Oats
  • Whole-wheat flour
  • Rye flour
  • Barley
  • Buckwheat
  • Bulgur (steamed and dried cracked wheat)
  • Millet
  • Quinoa

And don't think that cooking them has to be difficult and time-consuming. Here are a couple of easy (and yummy) ways to prepare some whole-grain favorites.

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