You know that consuming colorful foods is good for your brain health. Did you know that adding whole-grain foods to your diet may improve your heart health and may protect against diseases such as cancer and diabetes? Adding whole-grain foods to a well-balanced diet may be good for older adults.
What are whole grains?
According to the Whole Grains Council, the definition of “whole grain” includes whole grains or foods made from them that contain all the essential parts and naturally-occurring nutrients of the entire grain seed. If the grain has been processed (e.g., cracked, crushed, rolled, extruded, or cooked), the food product should deliver approximately the same rich balance of nutrients that are found in the original grain seed.
This definition means that 100 percent of the original kernel – all of the bran, germ, and endosperm – must be present in order for the grain to qualify as a whole grain. Probably the whole grain that most people are familiar with is whole wheat, but there are other whole grain products, such as oatmeal, quinoa, brown rice, millet, and buckwheat.
What are some benefits of whole grains?
The U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends a minimum of three ounces of whole grain products every day for a healthy diet. There are multiple benefits of including these grains in the diets of aging parents and other seniors, such as:
- Diets rich in whole grains reduce the risk of both cardiovascular disease and stroke.
- Whole grain consumption is also linked to a reduced risk of diabetes, colorectal cancer, blood pressure, and even asthma.
- Whole grains are good for dental health. They seem to have a positive effect on gum disease and tooth loss.
- Diets that include whole grains may also help with weight loss.
(Naturally, the diet needs to include a good balance of other healthy foods as well.)
What about fiber?
A full serving of whole grains usually contains from half a gram to three grams of fiber. That’s not bad, but it’s technically not “high fiber.” To qualify as high fiber, a serving must contain five grams. In other words, while whole grains provide many benefits to aging parents and others, providing high fiber is not one of those benefits.
One of the best things about whole grains: they taste good! If your diet is lacking in whole grains, introduce them into your meals and see what changes they bring. If you need help in selecting whole-grain foods, check out www.choosemyplate.gov for helpful suggestions.