If you’ve ever eaten granola — whether as a breakfast cereal or a crunchy addition to a yogurt parfait — you’ve tasted the goodness of whole grains. Granola typically consists of oats, nuts and dried fruits. Oats are a whole grain, and grains are the seeds of grasses that are cultivated for food.
Why whole grains?
All grains are low in fat and rich in complex carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals. But whole grains are better sources of fiber and key nutrients like selenium, potassium and magnesium than refined grains. The reason? A grain’s fiber is housed in its bran and germ — and refined grains, like white rice or white flour, lose their bran and germ during the milling process.
Whole grains are good for you, and organic whole grains are even better. That’s because organic food is produced without pesticides, hormones and antibiotics. Before a food can be labeled organic, a government-approved certifier inspects the farm where the food is grown to make sure the farmer meets U.S. Department of Agriculture standards. Companies that handle or process organic food also must be certified.
The benefits of fiber
A diet high in fiber — such as whole grains — has many health benefits:
- May lower blood cholesterol levels
- Can slow the absorption of sugar, improving blood sugar levels
- May reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes
- Can help with weight loss by helping you feel fuller longer
Getting more whole grains
In addition to oats, other whole grains include barley, brown rice, wild rice, buckwheat, bulgur (cracked wheat) and millet. Many whole-grain foods come ready to serve, including cereals, breads and pasta products. But you can boost the amount of organic whole grains in your diet by trying these suggestions:
- Vary your breakfast menu by serving oatmeal, bran flakes and shredded wheat
- Make sandwiches with whole-grain breads and rolls
- Expand your selection of side dishes with whole-grain foods like brown rice, wild rice and bulgur
- Use wild rice or barley in soups, stews and casseroles
- Add extra body to ground meat or poultry with cooked brown rice or whole-grain breadcrumbs
- Use rolled oats or crushed bran cereal instead of dry breadcrumbs in dishes like meatloaf
It’s not hard to raise the level of fiber-rich whole grains in your diet. A whole-grain tortilla here, a side dish of wild rice there, and pretty soon you’re eating better than you ever have before.
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