Benefits of Grains

Recently, grains have gained popularity with the realization of their preventive health benefits. The water-insoluble fibers found in wheat bran help prevent constipation and diverticular disease and have been associated with a decreased risk for bowel cancer. The water-soluble fibers in oat bran and barley have been shown to lower blood cholesterol and blood glucose levels, which helps in the prevention and management of cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Since refined cereal products have had the bran removed, you need to eat whole- grain products if you want to reap the health benefits of bran. Grains can also provide protein; they provide almost half (47%) of the dietary protein needs of the world population. Although no individual grain provides the full complement of essential amino acids (protein building-blocks), the combination of grain foods with a reasonable variety of other foods such as beans can be a complete protein source. This is true even for people who don't eat meat or dairy foods.

Grains have been thought of mainly as side dishes. But according to the IDA, a healthy diet includes 6 to 11 servings of grain foods every day, as compared with a maximum of 5 servings from any of the other food groups. But serving sizes specified in the guidelines are small, so it's not difficult to get the recommended amount each day. One serving of a grain product is defined as 1 slice of bread, 1 ounce of ready-to-eat cereal, or a cup of cooked cereal, rice.

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