Cheerios don’t seem like a very healthy food, yet they always boast about how great they are for your heart. They even have an endorsement from the American Heart Association. The key ingredient that makes cheerios healthy (not tasty, but healthy) is whole grains.
If a product is whole grain, that means everything included in the grain made its way into the product. Think about some whole grain breads with seeds in them or pieces of oat, that’s definitely whole grain!
Refined grains are the opposite, less-healthy version. To make refined grains, manufacturers will remove the outer layer of the seed (bran) and inner kernel of nutrients (germ). These parts of the grain are excellent for your body.
The bran is a thick outer layer that protects the grain. It’s filled with fiber, vitamins, and minerals. The germ houses many other nutrients. Refined grains strip away both and leave you with the endosperm of the grain, which tends to have a smoother texture and lighter color (think of white bread).
If you hear someone saying “stay away from processed carbs” they’re usually talking about refined grains and sugars. Unfortunately, it’s common to see carbs as devoid of nutrients and unhealthy due to the staggering amount of refined grains in the average person’s diet.
The truth is that you should eat carbs often, just make sure they’re whole grain! Harvard health says that eating whole grains reduces LDL cholesterol (the bad kind), triglyceride levels, and insulin. That’s why Cheerios can brag about being heart healthy.
There’s even some evidence that eating whole grains can reduce your risk of certain types of cancer. The point is, you should include them in your diet. Aim for 2-3 servings per day if you can.
Some common whole grain foods are:
- Whole grain bread
- Black or brown rice
- Whole wheat flour
Somewhere in that list you can find foods that you’ll like. It might not be whole wheat flour or whole wheat pasta, but other grains like oatmeal or popcorn might be tantalizing. Explore your options but remember to shoot for 2-3 servings per day!