How Whole Grains Benefit Your Body

How Whole Grains Benefit Your Body

Whole grains bring big benefits to the body. In fact, consuming the recommended level of whole grains per day can help reduce the risk of several chronic diseases and help meet nutrient needs1. That’s because whole grains contain fiber and other valuable nutrition that benefits your body. In addition to promoting heart health, when a part of a diet low in fat, saturated fat and cholesterol, research shows a link between those who eat whole grains and successful weight management2,3,4.

Whole Grains & Weight Management

Forget fad diets and think whole grains to help you stay satisfied throughout the day2,3,4. Packed with nutrition in the form of vitamins, minerals, complex carbohydrates, and fiber, whole grains contain some of the best elements to keep you on track when it comes to maintaining a healthy weight. Research supports the notion that eating healthy amounts of fiber, which are found naturally in whole grains, helps people manage their weight5,6.

In addition to lower body weight, dietary fiber has been associated with lower body fat. Results from the Nurses’ Health Study report that women (nurses) with the highest fiber intake had a 49 percent lower risk of a major weight gain over 12 years7. An important part of body weight management seems to be whole grain’s fiber content.

Whole Grains & Heart Health

Want to help your heart? Consider consuming more plant foods, like fruits, vegetables and whole grains, which have been associated with reducing the risk of heart disease. In fact, you may see the FDA-approved health claim on labels which states the following: "Diets rich in whole grain foods and other plant foods and low in total fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol, may help reduce the risk of heart disease and certain cancers."8. Foods using this claim must be at least 51% or more whole grains by weight and be low in fat.

Whole Grains & Blood Sugar

Whenever we eat, the amount of glucose, or blood sugar, in our body increases. This increase is normal and it signals the body to jump into action either using this energy source right away or storing it in our cells for use later when we need it. When we eat a diet full of simple sugars (think soda, candy, refined foods), the sugar in the food enters our blood stream quickly causing sugar “spikes." Over time these spikes can be taxing on our body; we may not be able to respond well, especially as we age, and this could lead to impaired blood sugar situations.

Diabetes happens when the body is not able to effectively manage blood sugar levels within normal range. In a healthy body, the hormone insulin assists in turning glucose into energy for cells, so we can use those calories to fuel our muscles, brain, etc. When someone has diabetes, the body isn’t able to process blood sugars within normal range, and consequently our cells – and our bodies - don’t get the energy it needs in a timely manner.

Because whole grains are complex carbohydrates and they naturally contain fiber, they are not broken down and absorbed as quickly as a simple sugars or refined foods. This means the increase in blood sugar happens more slowly, giving it more time to respond and absorb nutrients. A slower release of sugar into the blood stream also means a more stable release of energy to keep you going throughout the day. The fiber in whole grains has been associated with helping people who have diabetes, as well as providing a protective effect2,3,8.

The 2010 Dietary Guidelines recommends an increase in fiber and whole grains for all Americans1.

Find out more about specific whole grains and whole grain nutrition, then get ideas on how to eat more whole grains.

1 US Department of Agriculture and US Department of Health and Human Services. Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010. 7th edition. Washington, DC: US Government Printing Office. 2010;1-122.
2 Anderson JW, Baird P, Davis RH, et al. Health benefits of dietary fiber. Nutr Rev 2009;67(4):188–205.
3 Marlett JA, McBurney MI, Slavin JL, et al. Position of the American Dietetic Association: health implications of dietary fiber. J Am Diet Assoc 2002;102(7):993-1000.
4 Howarth NC, Saltzman E, Roberts SB. Dietary fiber and weight regulation. Nutr Rev 2001;59(5):129-139.
5 Slavin JL. Dietary fiber and body weight. Nutr 2005;21(3):411-418.
6 Howarth NC, Huang TT, Roberts SB, McCrory MA. Dietary fiber and fat are associated with excess weight in young and middle-aged US adults. J Am Diet Assoc 2005;105(9):1365-1372.
7 Liu S, Willett WC, Manson JE, et al. Relation between changes in intakes of dietary fiber and grain products and changes in weight and development of obesity among middle-aged women. Am J Clin Nutr 2003;78(5):920-927.
8 US Food and Drug Administration. Health Claim Notification for Whole Grain Foods. Silver Spring MD. Accessed February 1, 2013.

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