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The Health Benefits of Whole Grain Foods

Whole grains are healthy for us and can lower the risks of many health conditions like heart disease and diabetes. Learn about the health benefits of whole grain foods.

Whole grain foods have many health benefits and can actually cure some health problems like constipation and digestive health. Bread and carbohydrates have gotten a bad name over the years as a cause of obesity, and that is not true.

Whole Grain Foods

As I wrote in a previous article, Understanding Whole Grain Food Labels, it can be confusing to know if you are buying and eating a whole grain food or not. That article will teach you what to look for in the food ingredients and on the packages. Whole grains include the following foods [1].

  • Amaranth
  • Barley
  • Buckwheat
  • Corn
  • Job’s tears
  • Millet
  • Oats
  • Quinoa
  • Brown, wild rice and some colored rice
  • Rye
  • Wheat and some wheat varieties like spelt, durum, stone ground, wheat berries and bulgur.

Not Whole Grain Foods

Foods like white rice, white bread, enriched flour, enriched wheat, grits and bran are not considered whole grains. These foods are processed grains, where the processing has taken apart the grain and taken out the vitamins, minerals, nutrients and are usually very low or void of the healthy fiber.

The Belief that Carbohydrates Cause Health Problems

As I mentioned, bread and carbohydrates have gotten a bad name recently by those who believe that carbs are the cause of our failing health and rising obesity rates. There are those who believe that a diet low in carbohydrates is the way to reduce obesity and other health ailments. Some of the reasoning behind this thinking is that ever since the US Government came out with the food pyramid telling us to eat more carbs and bread, health problems like obesity and type II diabetes have been increasing.

Carbohydrates cover a lot of foods that are not whole grain foods. And these foods have been increasing in our daily diets, which could be the cause of the rising obesity rates and other health problems. Bad carbs like French fries, white flour hamburger buns from so many fast food meals and a huge increase in sugar and especially high fructose corn syrup.

With the big increase in the consumption of these bad carbs, some doctors, dieticians and authors have put all carbohydrates in the same category, and this is just not correct. There is a big difference between the processed and void of nutrients and fiber bad carbs and the whole grain foods and carbs.

Whole Grain Foods Can Heal Health Conditions

Whole grain foods can heal certain health conditions and reduce our risk of other health problems. Numerous and repeated studies have confirmed whole grain foods reduce the risk of the following health conditions [2].

  • Reduces the risk of getting type II diabetes by 21-30%
  • The risk of having a stroke is reduce by 30-36%
  • Heart disease risk is reduced by 25-28%
  • Whole grain foods can also help you maintain a healthy weight
  • Reduces the risk of asthma
  • Healthier arteries
  • Lowers the risk of colorectal cancer
  • Can cure constipation
  • Lowers high blood pressure
  • Reduces the risk of diseases caused by inflammation
  • Less gum disease and tooth loss
  • Builds a healthier digestive system
  • Reduces the LDL (bad) cholesterol and increased the HDL (good) cholesterol

Why We Need Whole Grains for Good Health

Our muscles, brain and body needs carbohydrates like whole grain foods to function properly every day. In fact our muscles and brain couldn’t function properly without carbohydrates. Whole grains contain the following vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals.

  • Whole grains are a complex carbohydrate which supplies our body with energy.
  • B vitamins and folate which lowers inflammation and promotes healthy gastrointestinal health.
  • Fiber can reduce constipation, improves the digestive system, lowers the risk of colorectal cancer and lowers cholesterol.
  • Minerals like magnesium and selenium promotes a healthy immune system and protects us from oxidation which can lead to certain cancers.
  • Phytochemicals that protect us from many types of diseases including diabetes, heart disease and cancers.
  • Whole grain foods contain a good amount of antioxidants that protect our cells from oxidation damage and can reduce the risk of many diseases.

Celiac Disease and Whole Grains

Some with celiac disease believe they cannot eat any whole grains because they all contain gluten. There are many whole grain foods that do not contain any gluten and are safe and healthy for those with celiac disease to eat. Gluten free whole grain foods that are safe to eat include [3].

  • Amaranth
  • Buckwheat
  • Corn
  • Job’s Tears
  • Millet
  • Quinoa
  • Brown rice
  • Sorghum
  • Teff
  • Oats. There is a possibility that some oats could be cross-contaminated with wheat, and some people have an intolerance to oats.

So those with celiac disease can also eat and benefit from the healthy whole grain foods.

Whole Grain Food Conclusion

Whole grain foods are healthy and our body needs whole grains for fuel. It could be true that if you are trying to lose weight quickly, limiting the amount of whole grains you eat could help you lose weight quicker. But not eating whole grain foods altogether would deprive your body of needed healthy vitamins and minerals. Stay away from the processed white flour products and stick with whole grain foods and you will notice your health improve.

Copyright © January 2012 Sam Montana


[1] Putting the Whole Grain Puzzle Together: Health Benefits Associated with Whole Grains—Summary of American Society for Nutrition 2010 Satellite Symposium - The Journal of Nutrition

[2] Summary of Recent Research on Whole Grains and Health

[3] - Gluten free whole grain foods

Photo by Glane23 Wikimedia Commons



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Comments (3)

Thank you for this well done article for valuable information. voted.

Being a Filipino, whole grains are part of our meals. Thanks for this information..

I use a lot of whole grain products in my kitchen Good article, Sam.