If you’re interested in adding whole grains to your diet but cringe at the thought of dense, dry whole-wheat bread, you’re not alone. Luckily, there are plenty of other ways to add whole grains into your diet and reap the health benefits, which can include a reduced risk of stroke, heart disease and some cancers. Research from the Harvard School of Public Health found that people who eat whole grains actually live longer and that adding whole grains into a daily diet decreases the risk of death by up to 15%.
Of course, some health professionals including Integrative Nutrition visiting teacher Dr. William Davis believe that whole grains aren’t actually as good for our bodies as we think, while others advocate them as part of a healthy diet. Ultimately, it’s up to you to listen to your own bio-individuality and decide what’s best for you based on your body’s individual needs. If you’re a fan of whole grains or are interested in adding them to your diet, September is a great time to celebrate since it’s National Whole Grains Month! Here, we've rounded up five easy ways to incorporate whole grains into your meals—as well as a tip that may even help you like whole-wheat bread after all.
The first step is knowing what to look for. The Whole Grains Council suggests first checking the package for a Whole Grains stamp. The stamp has been around since 2005, but not all whole-grain products have it. If you don’t see a stamp, look for these words on the label: whole grain (insert name of grain), whole wheat, whole (other grain), stoneground whole (grain), brown rice, oats or oatmeal, and wheatberries. The Council cautions that the following words may indicate that parts of the grain could be missing: wheat or wheat flour, semolina, durum wheat, organic flour, stoneground and multigrain. And finally, words like enriched flour, bran and wheat germ never describe whole grains.
Add grains to your salad.
Try topping your salad with a grain such as farro, quinoa or barley for an extra heart-healthy kick. The Whole Grains Council suggests choosing farro with “whole farro” on the label and avoiding ones that say "pearled" in order to get the most wholesome grains. And the same goes for barley. Look for the words “whole barley,” “hulled barley” or “hull-less barley”—not pearled. Here’s a list of whole grains from A to Z to choose from.
Make an oat-based dessert.
Oats have ample benefits including reducing the risk of Type 2 diabetes, lowering bad cholesterol and controlling blood pressure. And you aren’t just limited to plain old oatmeal. Check out these healthy dessert recipes on our recipe blog including coconut oatmeal cookies and oatmeal chocolate chip energy bites.
Try a new cereal.
The Whole Grains Council recommends swapping your current cereal for one with at least 16 grams of whole grains per serving. Look for cereal options with whole grain as the first ingredient, and choose the ones that go easy on the sugar count to avoid the “whole grains junk food scam.”
Enjoy a bread tasting.
To celebrate Whole Grains Month, take baby steps including adding whole-grain bread to your diet. Specifically, the Council challenges consumers to try three different loaves of bread to see which ones you like best. You may be surprised to find the perfect loaf is awaiting you. If you’re not a fan of the loaf, be sure to donate it to your neighbor or someone in need so it doesn’t go to waste. If you discover you love whole-grain bread – consider taking things up a notch and try sprouting your grains for an extra nutritional boost!
What’s your favorite whole-grain recipe? Share with us in the comments below!