Customer, Prentiss Taylor, MD of Chicago, addresses the question...
Is Eating Whole Grains Better for You?
In the United States, multiple studies over recent decades have shown convincingly that eating more whole grain foods has health benefits. Whole grains reduce type 2 diabetes risk, heart attack & stroke risk, are thought to reduce incidence of some cancers, plus over time can slow weight gain that results in obesity. Reputable studies have also shown that eating more whole grain foods can help reduce high blood pressure, along with other heart-healthy recommendations.
A 2015 report to the U.S. Department of Agriculture has found that Americans eat too many refined, highly processed foods. Refined grain products have been significantly modified from their natural composition. This processing generally involves mechanical mill removal of bran and germ. Refined grains intake is high, with the average adult in the U.S. eating 5-6 servings of those each day. Examples of refined grains are most breakfast cereals, most breads, white flour, white rice, most pancakes and waffles, most bagels, plus pastries such as donuts.
Compared with refined grains, whole grains are higher in fiber, healthy minerals and certain vitamins, plus many other plant biochemical and bioactive components, each of which has different heart health benefits. Some refined grain products have vitamins added in an attempt to have them stack up better on labels. McGill University researchers are cited in Wikipedia, saying “because the added nutrients represent a fraction of the nutrients removed, refined grains are considered nutritionally inferior to whole grains.”
The Mayo Clinic website currently advises: “The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends that at least half of all the grains you eat are whole grains. If you're like most people, you're not getting enough whole grains — so see how to make whole grains a part of your healthy diet.” The Mayo Clinic authors go on to say, “Try these tips to add more whole grains to your meals and snacks:
- Enjoy breakfasts that include whole-grain cereals” (others are on their website)
We should make clear that there is nothing wrong with eating some enriched grains in your diet, foods where vitamins such as folic acid or B-vitamins have been added. Experts at Mayo Clinic add, “Eat plenty of other folate-rich foods, including fruits, vegetables and legumes. Folic acid is especially important for women who could become pregnant or are pregnant.”
The 2020–2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends 3–5 servings/day of whole grains, or to make at least half of the recommended 6 servings of grains per day - - whole grains. A recent 2021 study also showed that increasing whole grains daily intake reduces abdominal fat over time. So, the benefits of whole grains within an overall heart-healthy diet are multiple.
Personally, my wife and I enjoy eating Gustola Granola for breakfast several times a week, as one feature of an overall heart-healthy, lower-sugar, Mediterranean-style diet.
I lean toward plant-based milks in my granola, and we alternate granola at breakfast with egg white veggie omelets, low-fat zero-sugar yogurts, nondairy yogurts, berries, and avocado/tomato sandwiches on a whole grain roll.
Disclaimer: The findings discussed here do not replace advice of your personal physician who is knowledgeable of your personal health history. We do urge you to have an annual discussion with your doctor about your health risks and how to optimize your health and well-being holistically.
Dr. Taylor is a board-certified Preventive Medicine and Internal Medicine primary care physician in the Midwest. He is affiliated with the Advocate Aurora Health system, and has volunteered time speaking on behalf of the American Heart Association’s Life’s Simple Seven heart disease prevention program. He is also Vice President for Medical Affairs with the national Doctor On Demand telemedicine service.