JEFF TIEDEMAN: The whole grain truthPut more on your plate during National Nutrition Month.
It’s been several years since the push began for people to eat more whole grains.
And while many have taken the advice, studies have shown that the average American eats less than one serving per day, and more than 40 percent never eat whole grains at all. (Young adults get less than one serving daily.)
That’s probably one of the reasons why this past June the U.S. Department of Agriculture unveiled MyPlate.
One of the recommendations of the daily food plan is that one-fourth of your plate should be filled with grains, at least half of them whole grains, which include barley, corn, oats, rice, rye and wheat (bulgur, farro and spelt are wheat grains).
If you haven’t jumped on that bandwagon yet, now’s a good time to start. It’s National Nutrition Month, when the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (formerly the American Dietetic Association) reminds everyone to return to the basics of healthy eating.
Grains, especially whole grains that are fiber-rich, are an important part of a healthy diet, according to Altru Health System dietitian Ellen Doebler. She said people shouldn’t discount the benefits of fiber on digestion and cardiovascular health.
Studies have shown that eating a diet high in whole grains instead of refined ones has been linked to a lower risk of heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, certain cancers and other health problems. Whole grains also are packed with nutrients including protein, fiber, B vitamins, antioxidants and trace minerals (iron, zinc, copper and magnesium).
I don’t remember exactly when my mind-set changed, but the past decade or so, the amount of whole grains in my diet has been gradually increasing. Here are three examples:
— Therese and I routinely use brown rice instead of white, whether it’s in soup, stir-fries or casseroles.
— We have a bowl of oatmeal for breakfast every morning (mine also includes flax, technically a seed, which contains many of the same nutrients as whole grains, as well as omega-3 fatty acids).
— The bread we eat (either from our bread machine or store-bought) almost always is rich in whole grain flour.
Another good example of how I’ve incorporated this philosophy into our diets is one of my favorite vegetable soups. Besides being loaded with vegetables (green and lima beans, peas, rutabagas, carrots, onion, tomatoes and celery), it also contains pearled barley and either brown rice or wild rice.
Here are a couple of more tips from Doebler, which will help make it easier to put more whole grains into your diet.
— Choose brown rice, barley and oats and other whole grains for your sides and ingredients.
— Switch to 100-percent whole-grain breads, cereals and crackers.
— Check the ingredients list on food packages to find foods that are made with whole grains.
Perhaps the best thing about a diet that is rich in whole grain foods is it promotes weight loss.
In a country where there has been a dramatic increase in obesity in recent years, that might be just what we need.
Tiedeman is food editor at the Herald. Reach him at (701) 780-1136 or toll-free at (800) 477-6572, or e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.