Whole grains are known for their ability to help improve digestive health, aid weight loss, or even reduce the risk of heart disease and diabetes.
Let’s find out what whole grains are, what types they include and the health benefits of whole grains!
1. Provide many nutrients
Whole grains provide many important nutrients:
• Fiber: The bran layer provides most of the fiber in whole grains.
• Vitamins: Whole grains are particularly rich in B vitamins including niacin , thiamin and folate.
Minerals: Whole grains contain a large amount of minerals including zinc, iron , magnesium and manganese.
• Protein: Each serving provides about 6 – 12% protein depending on the type of seed.
• Antioxidants: Many compounds in whole grains act as antioxidants including phytic acid, lignans, ferulic acid and sulfur compounds.
• Plant compounds: Whole grains provide a variety of plant compounds that play a role in preventing disease, including polyphenols, stanol and sterols.
The exact amount of these nutrients depends on the type of seed. The main nutrients in 1 28-gram serving of dry oats include:
- Fiber: 3g
- Manganese: 69% of the recommended daily intake (RDI)
- Phosphorus: 15% of the RDI
- Thiamine: 14% of the RDI
- Magnesium: 12% of the RDI
- Copper: 9% of the RDI
- Zinc and iron: 7% of the RDI
2. Reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease
One of the greatest health benefits of whole grains is that they help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease . This is one of the leading causes of death worldwide.
A review of 10 studies found that 3 servings equal to 84g of whole grains per day could reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease by 22%. Similarly, a 10-year study in 17,424 adults who consumed the majority of whole grains out of total carbs had a 47% lower risk of heart disease.
The researchers concluded that a heart-healthy diet should be rich in whole grains and limit refined grains.
3. Reduce your risk of stroke
Whole grains can help reduce the risk of stroke . In an analysis of 6 studies in nearly 250,000 people, those who ate the most whole grains had a 14% lower risk of stroke than those who ate the least. What’s more, certain compounds in whole grains, such as fiber, vitamin K, and antioxidants also contribute to a lower risk of stroke.
Whole grains are recommended in the DASH and Mediterranean diets. Both diets can help reduce the risk of stroke.
4. Whole grains to reduce obesity
Eating a diet high in fiber can help you feel full quickly and prevent overeating. This is one reason because high-fiber diets are often recommended for weight loss. Whole grains and whole grain products are high in fiber, which studies show may reduce the risk of obesity.
In fact, a diet of three servings of whole grains per day may help lower body mass index (BMI) and lower belly fat when observed in 15 studies with nearly 120,000 people.
5. Reduce the risk of diabetes
A review of 16 studies concluded that consuming at least 2 servings of whole grains daily may reduce the risk of diabetes . In part, this is because fiber-rich whole grains can also help control weight and prevent obesity – a risk factor for diabetes.
Studies have found that whole grain intake helps lower fasting blood sugar levels. This is thanks to magnesium – a mineral found in whole grains that helps the body metabolize carbs and increases insulin sensitivity.
6. Reduce cholesterol content
Whole grains not only help prevent the body from absorbing “bad” cholesterol, they can also reduce triglycerides , both of which are major drivers of cardiovascular disease. One study found that women who ate 2-3 servings of whole grains per day were 30% less likely to have a heart attack or die from heart disease than women who ate less.
7. Supports healthier digestion
The fiber in whole grains can support healthy digestion in a variety of ways. First, fiber facilitates bowel movement and reduces the risk of constipation. Second, some types of fiber in grains act as prebiotics, which nourish beneficial bacteria that live in the intestines, which are important for digestive health.
8. Reduce chronic inflammation
Inflammation is the cause of many chronic diseases, and can even cause cancer . One study found that women who ate a lot of whole grains reduced the likelihood of dying from chronic inflammatory conditions. What’s more, in a recent study in people with an unhealthy diet replaced refined wheat products with whole wheat products and found that inflammatory markers were reduced.
9. Whole grains help prevent cancer
Studies on whole grains and cancer risk have shown promising results. Current research shows that whole grains’s strongest anti-cancer benefit is against colorectal cancer – one of the most common types of cancer. Components of whole grains that may slow cancer growth include phytic acid, phenolic acid, and saponin.