Getting enough whole grains can bring a number of benefits, including reducing your risk of heart disease and diabetes. It's also helpful to your weight-loss efforts to swap whole grains for refined foods like white bread. Not only are they healthier and lower in calories, they are more filling so they may help prevent overeating.
Just what are whole grains, anyway? A whole grain means that all three parts of the grain -- called endosperm, bran and germ -- have not been processed, unlike refined grains, which have been refined and bleached, removing important nutrients.
Whole-grain foods include:
- Red rice
- Wheat berries
- Wild rice
Federal dietary guidelines suggest we all get three or more servings of whole grains each day. This may sound daunting, but it's easier than you think: A day's worth of three servings could consist of a half cup of oatmeal at breakfast, a couple cups of air-popped popcorn at snack-time and a serving of brown rice at dinner.
If you are not accustomed to eating a lot of whole-grain foods it can be tough to make the transition at first. One of the easiest ways to get used to them is to "sneak" them into your diet by working them into your favorite foods. For instance, you could add oats to homemade hamburgers instead of bread crumbs or use whole-wheat flour as a substitute for half of the all-purpose flour in your baked goods recipes.
Or, if you find you do not like eating whole-grain foods alone as a side dish, try using them with other more flavorful ingredients, such as adding toasted almonds and dried chives to kasha. You can even do this if you don't cook by simply adding a generous sprinkle oats to your yogurt or adding some wild rice to a salad. One of my favorite ways (and easiest, I might add) to eat more whole grains is to add brown rice to any type of soup that doesn't have a grain in it already, which makes it heartier and more flavorful.
To learn more about whole grains in your diet, check out Ask Your Nutritionist: What are Whole Grains?, from the nutrition Guide, and The Difference Between Refined and Whole Grains from the celiac disease Guide.