For obvious reasons many people have opted to go grain free — celiac disease being the most common reason.
But for others who don’t have gluten intolerance or other issues related to grains, the omission may be a costly one. At least that is what the results of a recent study imply.
The study, published in JAMA Internal Medicine, found that a diet rich in whole grains may lower the risk of death. The results were published in the January 2015 issue.
Whole Grains Lowered Mortality Risk by 9%
Researchers analyzed the results of two studies including over 110,000 participants. Dietary habits were assessed using food questionnaires, which screened for the consumption of whole grains such as corn, wheat, oats, rye, barley, rice, and popcorn.
Over a 25-year period those with the highest consumption of whole grains were nine percent less likely to die during the study than those with the lowest consumption.
Overall, a diet of whole grains was associated with a lower risk of heart-related deaths. In fact, each serving of whole grains was associated with a 5% lower risk of death.
How to Identify “True” Whole Grains
We’re often led to believe that a food is a whole grain when it actually isn’t. Clever marketing makes it all the more confusing.
If you want to include more whole grains in your diet, it’s important that you’re good at identifying them, which brings us to the question: what is a whole grain?
According to the Whole Grains Council (experts on the topic): Whole grains or foods made from them contain all the essential parts and naturally-occurring nutrients of the entire grain seed in their original proportions.[…] This definition means that 100% of the original kernel – all of the bran, germ, and endosperm – must be present to qualify as a whole grain.
The Whole Grains Council gives a detailed definition of a whole grain, but it’s a little on the technical side. Being able to identify some of the whole grains in the real world may be of further help. Look for these ingredients on your food labels:
- cracked wheat
- wheat berries
- whole wheat kernels
- 100% whole wheat flour
- whole-grain farro (ancient wheat)
- bulgur (a wheat product in dishes like tabbouleh)
- whole rye
- oats (includes instant, old-fashioned, and steel-cut oats)
- whole cornmeal
- whole wild rice
- brown rice
- whole barley
- hulled barley, not pearled
- sprouted whole grains
As a general rule of thumb, look for grains preceded by the word whole on the label. This often takes out the guesswork.
Note that there are some grains in the list above (such as teff, millet, and bulgur) which are not preceded by the word whole. These grains are almost always used in their whole state when processed.
Some of the grains on the list may not seem familiar to you. Health food stores often include options such as wheat berries and millet. Keep your eye out for them!
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