Whole Grains for Health

By Charlyn Fargo

November 20, 2020 5 min read

Keep the whole grains coming.

Not only do they help with diabetes, but new research finds they may improve heart health as well.

Earlier research has found that higher consumption of whole grains may help reduce your risk of developing Type 2 diabetes, according to a study published in the British Medical Journal in July 2020. The study looked at oatmeal, popcorn, whole-grain bread and brown rice, as well as other whole-grain foods also rich in fiber, antioxidants and B vitamins. Using data from 158,259 women and 36,525 men who did not have Type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease or cancer when the study began, researchers evaluated the relationship between whole grain intake and Type 2 diabetes over the course of four years.

Researchers found that participants who consumed the most whole grains (one or more servings a day) had a 29% lower rate of Type 2 diabetes compared with those who had less than one serving per month.

New research finds that consuming whole grains, such as whole-grain bread, brown rice and quinoa, over refined grains, such as white rice and white bread, may improve your heart health as well. The November study was published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

Researchers found consuming whole grains improved total cholesterol and decreased triglycerides. For every 16-gram serving of whole grains (which is equal to one slice of whole grain bread or a half-cup of brown rice), cardiovascular related deaths declined by 9%. When 48 grams (three servings) of whole grains were consumed every day, rates of cardiovascular death declined by 25%.

So, what is a whole grain? It's a grain that has the bran, endosperm and germ. In refined grains, the bran and germ — which contribute fiber, magnesium, selenium and other vitamins — have been removed.

The bottom line? Choose brown rice over white; whole-wheat bread and pasta over white; quinoa, wheat germ, oats and stone-ground, whole-grain crackers. Those are choices that can make a huge difference.

Q and A

Q: Because grapes are so sweet, can they be good for you?

A: Fresh grapes are prized for their taste, convenience, versatility and health benefits. The health benefits of grapes come from polyphenols. Polyphenols protect the cell function and health, promote antioxidant activity and influence cell communications. All three colors of grapes (red, green and black) contain polyphenols. Eating grapes my help counter the harmful inflammation and oxidative stress that can lead to many chronic diseases. While grapes taste sweet, they have a low glycemic index, which makes them a good choice even for diabetics. They key is portion control — a serving of grapes is 1 cup, or about 2 handfuls.


Looking for a healthy appetizer for the holidays? Try this Smoky Pumpkin Hummus, and serve it with whole grain pita bread and fresh vegetables. This recipe is from Today's Dietitian magazine.


1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas, with liquid

2 garlic cloves

2 tablespoons lemon juice

2 tablespoons tahini (sesame seed paste)

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

3/4 cup pumpkin, canned or cooked, pureed

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika

Optional garnish: additional extra-virgin olive oil, additional smoked paprika, 1 tablespoon pumpkin seeds

Drain the chickpeas, reserving the liquid. Put the chickpeas into a blender or food processor. Add the garlic, lemon juice, tahini, black pepper, olive oil, pumpkin, cumin seeds and smoked paprika. Blend, gradually adding enough of the reserved chickpea liquid to make a smooth, thick, creamy dip. Pour the dip into a serving dish, and garnish with a drizzle of olive oil and sprinkle of smoked paprika and pumpkin seeds, if desired. Serve with whole-grain pita bread, sliced into wedges and fresh vegetables. Serves 8.

Per serving: 100 calories; 4 grams protein; 11 grams carbohydrate;5 grams fat; 0 grams cholesterol; 3 grams fiber; 150 milligrams sodium.

Charlyn Fargo is a registered dietitian with SIU Med School in Springfield, Illinois. For comments or questions, contact her at [email protected] or follow her on Twitter @NutritionRD. To find out more about Charlyn Fargo and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com

Photo credit: FotoshopTofs at Pixabay

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