Why you want to eat whole grains

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If you’re not a fan of whole grains, there’s no better time to shake up your menu. Why now? For one, it’s Whole Grains Month, which is brought to you by the Oldways Whole Grains Council. But more importantly, there’s new research that offers some pretty compelling reasons to include whole grains.

It wasn’t that long ago that we thought the difference between whole and refined grains was simply the fibre content. But science has shown that these little grain nuggets are potent disease-fighters. Besides offering protection against weight gain, compared to refined grains, whole grains are linked to a defense against a variety of ills including cardiovascular disease, diabetes and some cancers.

The latest info on whole grains comes from a new report from the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) and the World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF) called Diet, Physical Activity and Colorectal Cancer. For the very first time, the report showed that eating whole grains, such as brown rice, barley, kamut, oats or whole-wheat bread (in Canada to reap whole grain benefits, look for whole grain whole wheat, not just whole wheat), on a daily basis reduces colorectal cancer risk, with the more you eat, the lower the risk (within reason!). Eating approximately three servings (90 grams) of whole grains daily reduces the risk of colorectal cancer by 17%.

When you look at the statistics dealing with this type of cancer, that figure of 17 % is pretty significant, especially when you consider that colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer worldwide. About 1.4 million new cases of colorectal cancer were recorded globally in 2012, accounting for 10 per cent of all new cases of cancer.

According to the report, it’s also is the fourth most common cause of death from cancer, estimated to be responsible for almost 700,000 cancer deaths. Over the next 15 years, the number of cases of colorectal cancer is expected to increase by 60 per cent to more than 2.2 million.

While the fibre contained offers an assortment of benefits, whole grains provide a bounty of other disease-fighting substances which may decrease cancer risk in different ways. For example, anti-inflammatory compounds may keep inflammation at bay thereby lowering the odds of developing cancer. Antioxidants contained are linked to protecting cells from damage from free radicals. The list goes on. Check out the infographic below for more.



As different whole grains provide a diverse collection of cancer-fighters, be sure to include a variety of  grains. Why not make a point of exploring a new whole grain dish every few weeks? For those who follow a gluten-free diet, don’t opt for a grain-free eating style. Go for options like quinoa, buckwheat and whole grain corn.

Check out the Oldways Whole Grains Council website everything you might want to know about whole grains including basic information on how they’re used and the history of each grain along with storage and cooking basics and lots of recipes.


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Categories: Nutrition News, Superfoods, Whole Foods

Author:Rosie Schwartz

Rosie Schwartz is a Toronto-based consulting dietitian and writer.

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