March is National Nutrition Month, the perfect opportunity for seniors and people of every age to assess their dietary choices. The foods we eat can make a big difference in our health!
This year, why not start with one of the healthiest dietary upgrades we can make—cutting down on refined starches and adding more whole grains? Eating more whole grains helps us …
Increase our nutrient intake. Whole grains are a great source of B vitamins, folate, magnesium, selenium, zinc and antioxidants.
Add more fiber to our diet. Fiber improves digestion, and that’s only the beginning. Dr. Bamini Gopinath of Australia’s Westmead Institute for Medical Research tells us that people who consume adequate fiber are less likely to develop high blood pressure, diabetes, dementia, depression and disability, and have an 80 percent greater likelihood of living a long and healthy life.
Maintain a healthy weight. Numerous studies show that replacing refined carbohydrates, such as while flour, with whole grains helps people lose unwanted pounds. Not only do we feel satisfied faster when we eat whole grains (and are hence less likely to overeat), but also, according to Tufts University nutritionists, eating whole grains speeds up our metabolism so we burn more calories.
Protect our heart and brain. A study from the Cleveland Clinic showed that adding whole grains to our diet lowers cholesterol, helps control blood pressure, and lowers our risk of heart attack and stroke—even among people who are overweight.
Prevent certain cancers. The American Institute for Cancer Research reports that eating whole grains daily reduces the risk of colorectal and gastric cancer—and the more you eat, the lower the risk.
Reduce inflammation. Inflammation raises the risk of everything from heart disease to diabetes to dementia to gout. Some studies show that eating processed grains raises the level of inflammation, but whole grains can lower the level.
Live longer. In a large study, Harvard researchers found that participants who ate a lot of whole grains were less likely to die during the course of the study than those who did not. All the benefits above contribute to this longevity boost by reducing the incidence of mortality due to everything from heart disease to diabetes to respiratory failure.
So, what is a whole grain?
Whole grains contain the entire grain—the bran, germ and endosperm. Refined grains are milled and the bran and germ are removed. This increases their shelf life, but definitely decreases their food value.
Here’s one more reason to eat more whole grains: they’re delicious! You might think of whole wheat and brown or wild rice as the whole grains you could add, but that is only the beginning. Oatmeal, corn and barley are whole grains. Try some new ones, such as quinoa, faro and bulgur, all of which are delicious in soups, salads and side dishes. And do you know what the largest whole grain is? Popcorn! It’s a healthy snack, so long as you don’t overdo the salt and butter.
The information in this article is not intended to replace the advice of your health care provider. Talk to your doctor or dietitian about a diet plan that’s right for you.