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How to Eat Whole Grains for Health

In this Article:Adding Whole Grains to Your DietManaging Health IssuesCommunity Q&A

Whole grains are grains that haven't had their bran or germ removed. They are rich in nutrients, fiber, complex carbohydrates, magnesium, selenium, and potassium. Making daily decisions to choose whole grains over refined grains can have a profound effect on certain medical health conditions and lower your risk of type 2 diabetes and heart disease.[1]

1
Adding Whole Grains to Your Diet

  1. 1
    Buy whole grain bread and avoid refined grain varieties. Read bread labels carefully. You can’t tell if it's whole grain just by looking at the bread and you can't assume all white breads are refined. Some brands of refined bread add brown coloring so their products look more like whole grain. White breads can be made with whole grains, as well. Your best bet is to check the label!
    • Check the front of the package for a specific number of whole grain grams or the words "100% whole wheat." Make sure the first ingredient includes the word "whole." For example, "whole wheat flour" or "whole oats."[2]
    • Try adding 2 pieces of whole grain toast to 1 of your daily meals.
    • Make sandwiches with whole grain breads.
  2. 2
    Eat whole grain oatmeal or bran flakes for breakfast. Choose a cereal that contains at least 5 grams of fiber per serving. If you like cold cereal with milk for breakfast, try cutting out your favorite sugary cereal and replacing it with bran flakes or shredded wheat. If you prefer a warm breakfast, heat up a filling bowl of oatmeal or bran.[3]
    • Eat whole grain rolled oats to reap the most health benefits.
    • Avoid eating Cream of Wheat, which doesn’t offer the same health benefits.[4]
  3. 3
    Replace white flour tortillas with whole wheat versions. Make sure to read the packaging first! Make sure the whole wheat tortillas are high in fiber and whole grains before making the switch. While corn tortillas aren’t necessarily bad for you, consider replacing those with whole grain tortillas, as well.[5]
  4. 4
    Eat whole grain or whole wheat pasta instead of regular pasta. Whole wheat pasta is very similar to regular pasta and it’s cooked the exact same way. Some people even prefer whole grain pasta because it has a little more texture than regular pasta.[6]
    • You can find whole grain and whole wheat pasta right next to the regular pasta at the grocery store.
  5. 5
    Replace white rice with brown rice, barley, quinoa, or lentils. Studies have shown that both men and women can reduce the risk of diabetes by at least 11% by replacing white rice with a whole grain 2 to 3 times per week.[7] Omit the white rice and try adding barley, wild rice, or lentils to your favorite soups and casseroles.
    • For example, use brown rice in your next curry or biryani.
  6. 6
    Use rolled oats or crushed bran flakes instead of dry bread crumbs. Whenever you’re making a dish that calls for bread crumbs, don’t use the store-bought packaged brands. You can substitute with rolled oats or crushed bran flakes and get similar results.[8]
    • When replacing bread crumbs in recipes, substitute rolled oats or bran 1:1.
  7. 7
    Snack on homemade popcorn. Popcorn is a delicious and healthy whole grain that makes a great snack. You can pop it at home using a popcorn popper or your microwave. You can eat it plain or lightly season it with your favorite herbs or spices. However, don't add extra fat and calories by topping your popcorn with oil or butter.
    • For example, sprinkle lime juice over your popcorn for a citrus flavor. Alternatively, you could sprinkle a little bit of chili powder onto the popcorn for a spicy option.
    • To make popcorn in your microwave, add .33 cups (78 ml) of popcorn kernels to a lunch-sized brown paper bag. Microwave the kernels for 1.5-2.5 minutes, stopping when there is a 1 second gap between pops. Remove the popcorn from the microwave and pour it into a bowl.[9]

2
Managing Health Issues

  1. 1
    Eat 2 servings of whole grains daily to reduce risk of type 2 diabetes. The fiber and nutrients present in whole grains may improve insulin sensitivity and glucose metabolism. Whole grains may also slow down the absorption of food, which can prevent spikes in blood sugar. Replace 2 refined grains for 2 servings of whole grains each day.[10]
    • One serving of whole grains is equal to ½ cup (60 g) of cooked hot cereal, 1 slice of 100% whole grain bread, or ½ cup (60 g) of cooked whole grain pasta or brown rice.
    • Getting 2 servings per day is easier than you think! For example, have a bowl of oatmeal in the morning and a sandwich made with whole grain bread at lunch.
  2. 2
    Reduce the risk of colon cancer by adding whole grains to your diet. Fiber-rich whole grains are a great way to increase your intake of both insoluble and soluble fiber.[11] Pay attention to both types of fiber when reading labels, since they serve different purposes. You want to increase both types of fiber.
    • Whole grains that contain insoluble fiber are whole wheat, bran, seeds, barley, brown rice, bulgur, and couscous.
    • Whole grains that are soluble forms of fiber include oatmeal, flax seeds and oat flakes.
  3. 3
    Eat 2-3 servings of whole grains per day to reduce the risk of heart disease. Elevated levels of cholesterol and triglycerides can lead to cardiovascular disease. Whole grains can lower cholesterol and triglycerides, which can lead to better heart health. Try to eat a minimum of 2 servings of whole grains each day.[12]
    • Eat bran flakes, shredded wheat or oats for breakfast.
    • Substitute whole grain breads for refined grain breads in both toast and cereals.
  4. 4
    Reduce the risk of diverticular disease by increasing fiber intake. Whole grains are rich in insoluble and soluble fiber. Try to increase your overall dietary fiber intake to 25 to 30 grams per day. You want this fiber to come from food, not supplements.[13]
    • Diverticular disease starts when weak pockets are created in your intestines. They can become easily inflamed and burst, leading to diverticulitis.
    • Soluble and insoluble fiber help to make your stool soft and bulky while also decreasing pressure in your intestines.[14]
  5. 5
    Manage your weight by avoiding refined sugars and grains. Cookies, cakes, and most packaged foods are filled with refined sugars and refined grains. These can cause weight gain and other significant health problems over time. Cutting them out of your diet can lead to weight loss as well as reduction in the risk of disease.[15]
    • Whole grains help you feel fuller for longer, which can also help with weight management.

Community Q&A

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  • Question
    What kinds of complex carbohydrates does the body need every day?
    wikiHow Contributor
    Community Answer
    To get a healthy balance, eat healthy proportions of organic (pesticide-free) vegetables, grains, and legumes. Examples of this include squashes; grains such as millet, quinoa, amaranth, and whole grain pastas; beans such as black, kidney, pinto, split peas, and black eyed peas. It is important to have organic because otherwise the toxins will build up in your liver, creating complicated problems. If you eat a healthy, varied diet, you should have no problem getting all the complex carbohydrates you need.
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    Tips

    • Whole grains can be cooked in a rice or pressure cooker as well as on a stove top.
    • In order to shorten the cooking time of some whole grains such as oats and quinoa, you can soak them overnight. They will heat and cook quickly on the stove top.
    • It is a good idea to rinse whole grains such as oats, quinoa, and bulgur to remove any chemicals or germs created in packaging the grains. Use a strainer with a very fine mesh to ensure you do not lose the grains.

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