Many whole grains are good sources of dietary fiber, which fills you up and can help improve your blood cholesterol and overall cardiovascular health.

Whole grains vs. refined grains

Whole grains contain the entire grain — the bran, germ and endosperm — as well as essential nutrients and are recommended as part of a healthy diet.

Refined grains have been milled to remove the nutrient-rich bran and germ, leaving the endosperm, which is mostly starch. Some refined grains are “enriched” with vitamins and iron during processing but usually still fall short on fiber. Refined grains — like pastries and white bread — often keep company with added sugars, sodium and saturated fats and should therefore be limited.

Many restaurants and food companies are making efforts to increase their use of whole grains and improve refined grains in their products and menus.

For example, as part of its Healthy for Life 20 By 20® initiative with the American Heart Association, Aramark, the largest United States-based food-service provider, has committed to a five-year, 20 percent increase in whole grains, fruits and vegetables at thousands of colleges and universities, businesses, hospitals and other venues.

Follow these tips to give your nutrition a boost with whole grains:

  • Use whole-grain/high-fiber breads and cereals rather than refined grain products.

  • Look for “whole grain” as the first ingredient on the food label

  • Make at least half your grain servings whole grain.

The bottom line

Whole grains should be part of an overall healthy-eating pattern that also emphasizes fruits and vegetables, includes low-fat dairy products, poultry, fish, legumes, non-tropical vegetable oils and nuts and limits the intake of sweets, sugary beverages and red meats.

When it comes to nutrition, breakfast sets the tone for the day. Start your day with a nutritious breakfast and set yourself up to be healthy for good.