- An excellent source of starchy carbohydrate and dietary fiber. Consuming foods rich in fiber reduces blood cholesterol levels and reduces the risk of coronary heart disease. It also helps reduce constipation and diverticulitis. Fiber-containing foods such as whole grains help provide a feeling of fullness with fewer calories.
- Grains are very low in fat, and when used in combination with beans and other legumes, grains are a good source of complete protein.
- Whole grains especially oats helps the body utilize insulin more efficiently, an important asset in controlling diabetes.
- Whole grains are a good source of B vitamins (thiamine, riboflavin, niacin) which play a key role in metabolism – they help the body release energy from protein, fat, and carbohydrates. B vitamins are also essential for a healthy nervous system. Many refined grains are enriched with these B vitamins.
- Whole grains are good sources of magnesium and selenium. Magnesium is a mineral used in building bones and releasing energy from muscles. Selenium protects cells from oxidation. It is also important for a healthy immune system.
- Whole grains products are also a good source of iron, calcium and folate. Eating grains fortified with folate before and during pregnancy helps prevent neural tube defects during fetal development.
- Eating at least 3 ounce equivalents a day of whole grains may help with weight management.
Recommended daily consumption of grain products: Nutritionists recommend that 55 to 60 percent of total daily calories should come from Carbohydrates, mostly grain-based starches, such as breads, cereals, pasta, and rice, along with potatoes and dried beans, peas, and other legumes. A person of normal weight should have 6 to 11 servings of starchy foods a day, with at least 4 to 6 of these servings coming from a grain product.
Common grain products:
- Barley contains gluten, the substance in some grains that gives dough (made from the grain) its elasticity and helps bread to rise properly. Barley has a somewhat sweet taste that makes it an interesting addition to casseroles and salads. Whole barley, also called hulled barley is much more nutritious than pearled barley, because the bran is left intact.
- Corn or maize is a good alternative to wheat for people who are gluten intolerant, because corn does not contain gluten. In addition to being served as fresh sweet corn, it forms the basis of a wide range of foods, including popcorn, breakfast cereals, corn syrup, polenta, tortillas, corn bread, and hominy grits. Cornstarch is a gluten-free thickening agent.
- Oats are used in breakfast cereals and baked goods. Products made with oats contain little or no gluten and can usually be tolerated by people with celiac disease. (Note, however, that oat flour is often combined with wheat in commercial baked goods.) Rolled oats can be added to many dishes, including meat loaf and fish cakes; they can also be used to thicken soups and sauces.
- Rice is the staple food for about half the world’s population. Among its many varieties, brown rice is preferable to the polished grain, because it is unrefined and retains all its minerals, vitamins, and fiber. Long-grain brown rice is light and fluffy, while short-grain brown rice has a heartier texture and a nuttier flavor; it takes longer to cook than white rice but requires little attention. White rice varieties basically begin as brown rice but are stripped of the husk, bran, and germ during processing (polished grains). Flour milled from rice contains no gluten, so it is an excellent choice for people who are gluten intolerant.
- Rye contains some gluten, but the level of gluten in rye is much lower than that of wheat. Rye is used in some crackers and crisp breads, and is the key ingredient in rye whiskey.
- Wheat is one of the most widely consumed grains in the worlds. During milling, the bran (outer husk) and germ (located at the base of the grain) are removed, making the end product less nutritious than whole-wheat flour. Wheat contains high levels of gluten, so it should not be consumed in any form by gluten intolerant individuals.