Eat Whole Grains for a Healthier You

Eat Whole Grains for a Healthier You

Adding more whole grains to your diet is an easy way to get more health benefits from the foods you eat. If you picture a slice of dry wheat bread when you hear “whole grains,” don't worry. There are a lot of tasty whole grains waiting to tempt your taste buds. 

Along with a variety of appetizing tastes, whole grains are a good source of fiber. Fiber can help reduce your risk for heart disease, lower your cholesterol, prevent cancer, and manage your weight to fend off diabetes. 

Just make sure you’re eating whole grains, not refined grains. 

Know the Difference  

Grains are made up of three edible parts: germ, bran and endosperm. A whole grain includes all three parts. Refined grains are processed to remove the healthy parts, the germ and bran. They may be lighter and fluffier, but they’re not healthier. Refined grains lack most of the nutrients and fiber offered by whole grains. 

To make sure you're choosing whole grains: 

  • Read the nutrition labels on packaged foods. 
  • Look for the "whole grain" stamp on the package. 
  • Ask for a list of ingredients on non-packaged products. 

Whole grains come in many varieties. Wheat, corn, rice, oats, barley, rye and popcorn are all whole grains. Quinoa (pronounced keen-wah) is also a whole grain. There are even "ancient" whole grains like farro (pronounced fair-o). The refined version of farro is called pearled.

Benefits of Whole Grains 

Want to add a powerful dose of disease-fighting nutrients to your diet? Chock full of antioxidant B vitamins and E vitamins, magnesium and iron, whole grains fit the bill. People who eat three daily servings of whole grains can cut some health risks, including: 

  • Heart disease 
  • Stroke  
  • Type 2 diabetes 
  • Digestive cancers  
  • Colon and other cancers
Beware of False Grains 

You can't necessarily judge a product by its coloring to know if it's whole wheat. Brown coloring doesn't mean a food is made from whole grain. It might be brown from molasses. 

And don't be fooled by products that say they are multi-grain, stone-ground, seven-grain or made with cracked wheat, bran, or "100 percent” wheat. They may or may not be whole grain. The only way to know for sure is to look for the word "whole." Choose products that list whole grain as the first ingredient on the package. 

It's easy to add whole grains to your diet. Get inspiration with the free, tasty recipes served up by the Whole Grains Councilleaving site icon

Sources: What You Need to Know About Grains in Your Diet, leaving site icon Healthline, 2022; Whole Grains 101, leaving site icon Whole Grains Council, 2023

Important Plan Information

Originally published 7/15/2019; Revised 2021, 2023