A Whole New Reason to Eat Whole Grains

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New year, new research. The Journal of the American Medical Association released a new study this week on whole grains. We already knew that studies associate whole grains with a lower risk several chronic diseases. Now, researchers associate whole grain consumption with lower total mortality and cardiovascular (CVD) mortality. What does this mean?


Eating whole grains can help you live a healthier, longer life.


What were the study’s findings?

In the study, researchers monitored whole grain intake of two large groups of US men and women for 24-26 years.

Researchers found that subjects lowered their mortality by eating more whole grains. Each added serving lowered total mortality 5 percent. Each serving also lowered cardiovascular disease mortality by 9 percent. The researchers also found a benefit to swapping in whole grains for other foods. Participants who swapped refined grains for a serving of whole grains decreased their cardiovascular disease mortality by 8 percent. Also, participants who replaced red meat with whole grains reduced mortality by 20 percent.

Researchers associated the addition of whole grains in the diet with a lower mortality. Keep the bran and germ intact and you may add even more years to your life, researchers say.


What does this mean for my diet?

The bran and germ are the outer layers of the grain stripped when the grain becomes “refined.” The removed layer contains vital health-promoting nutrients and phytochemicals.  Think oatmeal, whole rye, popcorn, cornmeal, buckwheat, millet, quinoa, sorghum, wheat flour, and brown rice. Incorporating whole grains into our diet can be easy too! Here are some sample meal and snack ideas:


  • Steel cut oats with nuts and peaches
  • Breakfast burrito made with whole wheat wrap
  • Whole grain cereal with milk and banana


  • Mediterranean salad with whole wheat cous cous garbanzo beans, feta, tomatoes, and cucumber
  • A tuna-fish sandwich on 100% whole wheat bread
  • Quinoa salad with black beans, salsa, and cheese


  • Chicken curry with brown rice
  • Whole wheat linguine with peppers and ground turkey


  • Popcorn
  • Yogurt with toasted barley granola

When in doubt, check the nutrition label. The first ingredient will say “whole grain” or “100% whole wheat,” and it will have at least 2 grams of fiber per serving.

This study gave new insights on the benefits of whole grains. It also reconfirmed a few positive things we already knew about whole grains. Science shows that whole grains have numerous health benefits including:


Whole grains decrease your risk for developing heart disease

The American Heart Association reports that eating a diet rich in whole grains is strongly associated with heart disease prevention. Whole grains may reduce LDL “bad” cholesterol, triglycerides and blood pressure. Heart disease is the number one killer in the US. If eating a whole grain cereal or oatmeal for breakfast is a step in the right direction, sign me up!


Whole grains improve your digestive health.

Maintaining the outer layer of a grain is important in maximizing the health benefits. Whole grains contain fiber. That means they can help regulate bowel movements and decrease constipation, diarrhea, and inflammation. Bonus: It’s great for weight loss too. Including fiber-containing foods in our diet will help us feel satisfied and fuller, longer.


Whole grains provide you with valuable vitamins and minerals.

Whole grains contain important vitamins in minerals like B vitamins, magnesium, folate, selenium and iron. They have beneficial effects on your immune system, ease inflammation, and contain antioxidant properties.

As with any food group, not one food will do all the work by itself. Bottom line: it is important to eat a well-rounded diet with food from each food group, including your whole grains. For additional information about whole grains, view the IFIC Foundation Whole Grains Fact Sheet

Authored by Anastasia Maczko (@AnaMaczko) University of Maryland Dietetic Intern and Author of the Blog @AlmostVegans.