Eat whole grains to save your life

February 19, 2008 | By | 4 Replies More

The March 2008 addition of Consumer Reports contains an article called “Nine Ways to a Longer Life.”  There’s lots of common sense advice, such as get enough sleep, exercise and don’t smoke.  There is also some less-obvious good advice, including the need to eat the right kind of fat.  For instance, the monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats found in nuts, seeds, vegetable oils and fish have been demonstrated to keep people healthier.

What is the number one way Consumer Report lists for living a longer life?  It’s eating whole grains.

whole grains, oat groats

(I photographed this bowl of my favorite whole grains: oat groats) 

What are the benefits of eating whole grains?

They reduce the risk of heart disease, several cancers, and inflammatory diseases such as asthma.  Studies have shown that breakfasts are can be a good way to get grains.

What’s a good way to learn about whole grains?  I’ve talked about them before.  My first foray into whole grains was Walter Willett’s excellent book, Eat Drink and Be Healthy.

I recently attended a lecture on how to make bread.  The chef spoke quite highly of a website sponsored by the Whole Grains Council.  What kinds of information are offered at the Whole Grains Council?

The Whole Grains Council helps consumers find whole grain foods and understand their health benefits; helps manufacturers create delicious whole grain products; and helps the media write accurate, compelling stories about whole grains.

What are whole grains?

Whole grains or foods made from them contain all the essential parts and naturally-occurring nutrients of the entire grain seed.

Some of the most common types of whole grains are:

  • Wheat Berries
  • Kamut 
  • Spelt 
  • Rye
  • Triticale
  • Oat Groats
  • Barley 
  • Brown Rice
  • Wild Rice
  • Job’s Tears
  • Millet 
  • Quinoa
  • Amaranth
  • Teff
  • Kasha (Buckwheat Groats)
  • Bulgur 

Here are some more of the incredible health benefits of eating whole grains on a regular basis (and see here).  All health-conscious people should flock to eat lots of whole grain food, of course.   I’ve saved the best two reasons to eat whole grains for last. 

Whole grains are easy to cook.  You don’t need a fancy steamer (really, you don’t).  Just spend about $30 for a Black & Decker Flavor-Scenter steamer; Diana Mirkin has published easy directions for cooking all of the types of whole grains.  Recipes for using whole grains are available all over the Internet, including at the Whole Grains Council (I often stir them into chili, soups and salads, and use them where ever I’d use rice).  It’s incredibly easy. 

The other reason for blending whole grains into your diet is that they taste delicious.  After you eat whole grains for awhile, you’ll never get excited about refined grains (e.g., white rice) again.   Another bonus is that eating whole grains makes it easier to lose weight, due to the increased fiber.

Here’s the catch.  It is sometimes not easy to identify the products that are truly made out of whole grains.  In fact, the Whole Grains Council dedicates a long webpage on how to decipher misleading packaging claims that a product contains whole grains.


Category: Food, Health

About the Author ()

Erich Vieth is an attorney focusing on consumer law litigation and appellate practice. He is also a working musician and a writer, having founded Dangerous Intersection in 2006. Erich lives in the Shaw Neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri, where he lives half-time with his two extraordinary daughters.

Comments (4)

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  1. Artemis says:

    I have a yummy recipe for salmon patties using quinoa if you want it

    Hey what about oatmeal? That's my favorite breakfast cereal.. is it not a whole grain? I know its great for fiber…

  2. Dan Klarmann says:

    Nice grain in your counter top. I am fond of metamorphic rock. OK, technically, granite is igneous. But the section you show displays signs of subsequent fractures and recrystallization after it originally formed.

    I clicked on the image to see the enlargement.

    I daily eat bread made from sprouted grains, and my breakfast flakes have primarily amaranth and quinoa grains, as well as a representative of the genus Triticum.

  3. A'Llyn says:

    It's true—I really have no interest in white rice anymore. I eat a lot of brown rice, and always buy 100% whole wheat bread, but should really expand into some of the more interesting whole grains as well.

    I THINK oatmeal counts as a whole grain, even though it's been squashed…it still has the germ.

  4. Erich Vieth says:

    Goodman: And what does refined wheat do?

    Pollan: Well, what happens is, when you — there was a key invention around the 1860s, which is we developed these steel rollers and porcelain rollers that could grind wheat and corn and other grains really fine and eliminate the germ and the bran. And the reason we wanted to do that was we loved it as white as possible. It would last longer. The rats had less interest in it, because it had less nutrients in it. And also you get a kind of a real strong hit of glucose. I mean, basically it digests much quicker, as soon as it hits the tongue. I mean, everyone has — you know, if you've ever tasted Wonder Bread, you know how sweet it is. The reason it's sweet is it's so highly refined that as soon as your saliva hits it, it turns to sugar.

    Whole grains have a whole lot of other nutrients. You know, it once was possible to live by bread alone, because a whole grain loaf of bread has all sorts of other nutrients. It has omega-3s, it has, you know, lots of B vitamins. And we remove those when we refine grain. And it's kind of odd and maladaptive that refined grain should be so prestigious since it's so unhealthy. But we've always liked it, and one of the reasons is it stores longer.

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