Why do people who eat more whole grains, like oatmeal, gain less weight than those who fill up on refined grains, like white rice? Whole grains keep food in your stomach longer, so you're less likely to binge on junk foods. But a slender shape isn't the only reason to eat whole grains. Their texture and flavor can also wake up taste buds tired from a white-bread diet.
Smart Ways to Swap in Whole Grains
It’s easy to get more whole grains in your diet. Serve brown or wild rice instead of white. Put turkey dogs on whole-wheat buns. Make pancakes with oat or corn flour. Switch to whole-wheat tortillas. Munch on popcorn instead of chips. Go slowly and let your body get used to more fiber, and drink lots of water. That way you won’t have to worry about any gas or bloating.
Wake Up and Smell the Barley
There's nothing boring about warm whole grains for breakfast!
Drizzle honey on cooked barley and sprinkle with nuts and dried fruit.
Top chewy farro with bananas, walnuts, and dried cranberries.
Stir chopped apple, cinnamon, brown sugar, and raisins into partly cooked old-fashioned oatmeal. Continue cooking until the apple is tender. Top with toasted nuts.
A Whole-Wheat Pasta Taste Test
When TV chefs start praising the taste of whole-grain pasta, you know it must be good. The best new types are nutty and firm, not gluey like older ones. Dress them with spicy tomato sauce or hearty spinach-and-walnut pesto. Be wary of "super" pastas with extras like flaxseed or legume powder, which can ruin the taste. Look for durum, spelt, or farro wheat pasta.
Quinoa: Trendy and Tasty
No wonder this Peruvian seed is often seen in the hippest restaurants. It has a mild flavor, fills in nicely for rice, and is easy to cook in about 15 minutes.
Match quinoa's mild flavor with vegetables or sweet chunks of fruit. Or try tossing it in a salad with peppers, corn, and black beans. You can mix it into patties with egg, onion, and grated cheese instead of ground beef.
Whole Grains Can Be Gluten Free
If you need to avoid gluten – a protein found in wheat, rye, and barley – you can still eat whole grains. Look for quinoa, millet, buckwheat, and amaranth instead. Even if you don't have gluten issues, try different whole grains – like brown rice, wild rice, bulgur wheat, oatmeal, and spelt. Each offers different nutrients.
Whole Grain Label Clues
If a bread is brown, does it mean it's whole grain? Not always. The only real way to know is to check the back nutrition label -- even if the package front looks promising. The first ingredient should be a whole grain. Look for:
Whole wheat or 100% whole wheat
Whole grain rye
Beware of Whole Grain Label Fakes
Watch out for refined grains, which can go by crafty names like "unbleached enriched wheat flour," "multigrain," "wheat flour"," or "100% wheat." Multigrain means more than one type of grain, and all of them may be refined. Check the back label for fiber -- 2.5 grams or more per serving. That will help you avoid foods that don't live up to a whole-grain promise.
How Much Whole Grain Do You Need?
Try this easy trick to get enough: Fill one-quarter of your plate at each meal with grains – and make at least half of that whole grains.
If you're counting servings, you'll need six to eight grain servings a day. Again, half should be whole grain. What counts? One slice of whole-wheat bread, ½ cup of cooked pasta or oatmeal, or 3 cups of popped popcorn.
What Makes Whole Grains So Good?
A whole grain is a plant seed with three layers. When it is refined, the outside and the inside are stripped away along with most of the nutrients and fiber. The starchy middle remains and you get white rice or white flour -- and lighter breads, pastries, and pastas. "Enriching" adds back some nutrients, but not as much as you get if you eat the grain "whole."
A Good Way to Boost Fiber
Fiber has a long list of health benefits, from helping you feel full longer after a meal, to losing weight, to keeping you “regular.” Americans don't get enough fiber. In fact, most of us get less than half the fiber we need every day: 25 grams for women and 38 grams for men. Most whole grains are packed with fiber.
Whole Grains Keep You Strong
Fiber isn’t the whole story when it comes to whole grains. They’re also loaded with B vitamins, which give you energy. They're rich in folate, which builds red blood vessels. They're packed with minerals like magnesium and selenium, which build bones and strengthen your immune system. Whole grains also have phytochemicals -- natural plant compounds that can help fight disease.
Whole Grains for Long Life
Eating whole grains may help you live longer and gain extra protection against diseases that creep up with age.
They lower your risk of heart disease and stroke.
They help prevent and control type 2 diabetes, partly by helping control weight.
They protect the cells in your body from damage that leads to cancer.
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THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment and should not be relied on to make decisions about your health. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the WebMD Site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.