Recent research has shown that including wholegrain foods in the diet can reduce our risk of coronary heart disease. In one study, postmenopausal women who included wholegrain foods each day in their diet, decreased their risk of heart and blood vessel disease by one third compared to those who rarely ate wholegrain foods.
How do wholegrains reduce heart disease risk?
Some of the proposed mechanisms by which wholegrains reduce the risk of heart disease include lowering blood cholesterol and triglyceride levels, and reducing blood pressure.
What is a wholegrain?
A wholegrain is where all the layers of the original grain (the bran, germ and endosperm) are retained for best nutrition. In contrast, a refined grain is where some of the layers of the grain are removed. For example, brown rice is a wholegrain, whereas white rice is a refined grain.
So why are wholegrains so good?
Wholegrains provide all the nutrients from each layer of the grain, such as the dietary fibre, antioxidants (including vitamin E and Selenium) and phytochemicals (natural plant components, thought to help protect us against disease).
In contrast, refining grains can cause large nutrient losses, including more than 50% of the dietary fibre and 70-80% of vitamins and minerals.
While refined grain products can have added vitamins and minerals, it is possible that many of the phytochemicals naturally in the wholegrain, are not replaced. In addition, fibre may often not be replaced when wholegrains are refined.
How to increase your intake of wholegrain foods
Choose wholegrain breakfast cereals, such as Bush Foods Breakfast Cereal or rolled oats;
Use wholemeal or wholegrain breads, muffins, pasta and crackers;
Use brown rice in place of white rice where possible;
Add unpearled barley or brown rice to soups and casseroles.
Wholegrain foods provide variety, taste and essential nutrients in the diet.
This article was prepared by the nutritionists at Sanitarium Nutrition Service.