The risk of heart disease can be reduced if people can increase the amount of whole grains in their diets. Yes, researchers have found that whole grain bread, brown rice and a bowl of oats or cracked wheat can help us keep our heart healthy.
After studying dietary patterns of some 150,000 participants from 7 surveys, researchers of the Wake Forest University reported that participants who ate 2.5 servings or more of whole grains a day reduced their risk of heart disease by 21 percent compared with participants who did not include any or had little whole grains in their diet.
Whole grains are known to be low in cholesterol and rich in fiber, phytonutrients and antioxidants. 3 main parts can be found in grains, namely the bran (the fiber-rich outer shell), the germ (the nutrient-packed inner layer) and the endosperm (the middle layer).
The fiber found in whole grains helps bind with the bile acids and sterols in the body to pass cholesterol out as waste product. This effectively reduces the amount of dietary cholesterol absorbed by the body, and thus makes it heart-friendly. Furthermore, whole grains are good sources of complex carbohydrates which make us feel full on less. This also means that we will tend to eat less to prevent us from being overweight or obese.
In additional to the above benefits, whole grains also help regulate blood pressure with their potassium and magnesium content. Because of the high amount of fiber, they help prevent constipation too.
Nevertheless, most people do not eat enough whole grains. Instead, they rely heavily on more refined grains such as noodles or white bread. These are made of refined flour containing lesser nutrients and fibers since the bran and germ are removed in the milling process.
From the heart-healthy point of view, we should seriously consider replacing white rice, noodle or white bread with whole-grain varieties and make sure that we have at least 1 serving of whole grains (2 slices of whole-grain bread) a day. Products that list whole grains as its first or second ingredient means that it is high in whole grains and is a good source of it.