Because nearly all (98 percent) Americans fall short of their recommended whole grain intake, celebrating Whole Grains Month each September is an opportunity to promote the role and benefits of whole grains as part of a balanced eating pattern.
What are Whole Grains?
Whole grains are made using all three parts of the grain kernel – bran, germ, endosperm – giving it the term “whole,” and also providing optimal nutritional value. Commonly known whole grains are whole wheat, oats, barley, brown rice, and quinoa.
Benefits of Whole Grains
Not eating enough whole grain is women’s number one and men’s number two dietary risk factor for death. Whole grains are a large source of B vitamins, folate, iron, selenium, potassium, magnesium, and fiber, which improve blood cholesterol levels and lower the risk of heart disease and even type 2 diabetes (T2D), as not eating enough whole grains is T2D’s number one dietary risk factor. By eating just 2.24 more servings of whole grains daily, the U.S. could save $21.9 billion related to cardiovascular disease costs and $14 billion in coronary heart disease costs annually.
Whole Grain Recommendations
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends that we make at least half our grains whole, or eat at least 48g of whole grain per day. When grocery shopping, check that products have “whole grain” listed as an ingredient or carry the Whole Grain Stamp, which ensures each of those items contain at least 8g or half a serving of whole grain.
How to Enjoy Whole Grains
It is easy to incorporate whole grain into your daily diet. Some small ways to start eating whole grain can be:
- Eat whole grain breakfast cereal or oatmeal for breakfast
- Substitute white bread for whole wheat bread on sandwiches
- Replace white rice with brown rice or quinoa
- Use whole wheat flour instead of white flour when baking
If you find yourself struggling to increase your whole grain intake, utilize the “Better Together” strategy to easily enjoy both whole and enriched grain food products for a healthier diet:
- Combine half whole wheat and half white pasta with your favorite sauce
- Mix whole grain and enriched grain cereals
- Use one slice of whole wheat and one slice white bread on sandwiches
- Substitute half of the breadcrumbs in meatballs, burgers, or meatloaf with either oats or whole grain breadcrumbs
Try adding more whole grains into your daily diet this September – and always!