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Five Reasons to Eat more Whole Grains

Update Date: Aug 11, 2014 02:56 PM EDT

With the obesity epidemic at large, eating healthy is an important part of preventing that epidemic from growing. One way to eat better is to replace certain products with their whole grain options. Whole grain food products use the entire kernel, which means that all of the heart healthy parts, such as the bran and germ are still intact.

"You're getting fiber, a healthy plant-based protein, vitamins, minerals and a variety of phytochemicals that will improve your health," said Lilian Cheung, DSc, RD, a lecturer in nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health, reported by HuffPost.

Even though whole grains or whole wheat might not be as tasty, they are definitely better fuel for the body. Here are five reasons why you should add more whole grains and wheat into your diet:

1. Fiber

Whole grain products contain a lot of fiber. Fiber is an important part of a healthy diet because it can make the body feel fuller for a longer period of time, which means that people will be consuming fewer calories overall, preventing unwanted weight gain. Fiber aids in digestion as well. When consumed in moderate amounts, fiber helps manage bowel movements and improve the development of "good bacteria" in the large intestine.

Fiber has also been tied to improving blood sugar control, reducing low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol and lowering risk of colon cancer. In some studies, researchers found that whole grains prevented the body from absorbing LDL cholesterol while reducing the levels of triglycerides, which are two risk factors for heart disease. Health officials recommend adults to intake 25 to 35 grams of fiber per day.

2. Redistribute Fat

Whole grains have been linked to fat redistribution. According to experts, eating recommended levels of whole grains can help cut down body fat. The reductions in body fat can lead to an overall healthier redistribution of fat. The experts added that eating more whole grains have been tied to reduced belly fat, which is known as central adiposity, a risk factor for conditions such as diabetes.

3. Calcium

Even though whole grains are more widely known for their fiber content, there is one grain that contains a good amount of calcium. One cup of the grain, teff, which is popular in Ethiopia, contains around the same amount of calcium as a half cup of uncooked spinach, which is 123 milligrams. If the grain is accessible, it can be added as a good source of calcium as well. Health officials recommend adults to intake 1,000 milligrams of calcium per day.

4. B Vitamins

Some whole grains contain B vitamins thiamin, riboflavin and niacin. All three vitamins are linked to boosting one's metabolism. One more B vitamin, folate, also known as folic acid, which can be found in certain grains, is essential for women looking to get pregnant or pregnant women. Folic acid has been tied to preventing birth defects in infants. Doctors recommend women of baby carrying age and pregnant women to take a vitamin containing 400 micrograms of folic acid per day.

5. Cut Inflammation

Whole grains have been tied to relieving inflammation. In one study, researchers found that whole grain barley and/or brown rice helped reduced two markers of inflammation found in the gut. Researchers have also tied whole grain consumption to a reduced risk of developing asthma particularly when the grain is introduced early on in life. In addition, whole grains have been linked to decreased levels of C-reactive protein, another marker of inflammation. High levels of C-reactive protein have been tied to an increased risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, preeclampsia, premature risk and fertility complications.

Overall, whole grain consumption can extend lifespan. When purchasing whole grain products, people should look for labels that contain the word "whole." Do not rely only on the brown color.

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