See why whole grain foods are recommended

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Foods made from grains (like wheat, rice, and oats) are the foundation of a nutritious diet. They provide vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates (starch and dietary fiber), and other substances that are important for good health. Grain products are low in fat unless fat is added in processing, in preparation, or at the table. Whole grains differ from refined grains in the amount of fiber and nutrients they provide, and different whole grain foods differ in nutrient content, so choose a variety. If you eat plenty of whole grains, such as whole wheat bread or oatmeal (see picture below), you may reduce your risk of coronary heart disease, bowel diseases, and possibly some types of cancer. Aim for at least 6 servings per day—more if you are very active—and include several servings of whole grain foods. See box 8 for serving sizes.
 How To Increase Your Intake Of Whole Grain FoodsVitamins, minerals, fiber, and other protective substances in whole grain foods contribute to the health benefits of whole grains. Refined grains are low in fiber and in the protective substances that accompany fiber. Eating plenty of fiber-containing foods, such as whole grains (and also many fruits and vegetables) promotes proper bowel function. The high fiber content of many whole grains may also help you to feel full with fewer calories. Fiber is best obtained from foods like whole grains, fruits, and vegetables rather than from fiber supplements for several reasons: there are many types of fiber, the composition of fiber is poorly understood, and other protective substances accompany fiber in foods. Use the Nutrition Facts Label to help choose grains that are rich in fiber and low in saturated fat and sodium.

 Sample Ingredient List For A Whole Grain Food

Ingredients: Whole Wheat Flour, Water, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Wheat Gluten, Soybean And/Or Canola Oil, Yeast, Salt, Honey

Enriched grains are a new source of folic acid

Folate, also called folic acid, is a B vitamin that reduces the risk of serious types of birth defects and may help protect against coronary heart disease and possibly certain cancers. Folic acid is now added to all enriched grain products (thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, and iron have been added to enriched grains for many years). Whole grain foods naturally contain some folate, but only a few (mainly ready-to-eat breakfast cereals) contain added folic acid as well. Read the ingredient label to find out if folic acid has been added, and check Nutrition Facts to compare the nutrient content of foods like breakfast cereals.

Health Advice For You

  • Build a healthy base by making a variety of grains the foundation of your diet.  
  • Eat 6 or more servings of grain products daily (whole grain and refined breads, cereals, pasta, and rice). Include several servings of whole grain foods daily for their good taste and their health benefits. If your calorie needs are low, have only 6 servings of sensible size daily.  
  • Eat foods made from a variety of whole grains—such as whole wheat, brown rice, oats, and whole corn—every day.  
  • Combine whole grains with other tasty, nutritious foods in mixed dishes.
  •  Prepare or choose grain products with little added saturated fat and moderate or low amounts of added sugars. Also, check the sodium content on the Nutrition Facts Label.

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