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.
(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.
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
- Oat Groats
- Brown Rice
- Wild Rice
- Job’s Tears
- Kasha (Buckwheat Groats)
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.