Whole grains are part of a healthy balanced diet. They provide important nutrients that may help reduce the risk for chronic diseases such as diabetes type 2 and cardiovascular disease.

The current recommendation is to have at least half of your grains as whole grains, meaning 3 to 5 servings of whole grains per day.

But do you know what they are and why they are important?

Whole grains are unrefined cereal seeds that still contain the whole kernel (bran, germ and endosperm). This means that they hold more nutrients than their refined counterparts.

During the refining process, the bran and germ are discarded in order to improve taste and texture. However, this process strips away fibre, antioxidants, phytochemicals, vitamins and minerals. What is left is basically starch, which is quickly broken down during digestion causing a rapid rise in blood sugar.

That’s why whole grains are healthier options. Their high-fibre content helps regulate blood sugar, contributes to bowl regularity, improves satiety, and promotes heart health.  They are also rich in B vitamins, vitamin E, magnesium, and iron. And according to the Whole Grains Council, whole grains have many antioxidants that are not available in fruits and vegetables.

Here are 5 ways to include more whole grains into your diet.

  • Substitute refined products with whole grain varieties. To be sure you are getting the real thing, look for the Whole Grain Stamp on the package or check the ingredient list for words such as “whole grain,” “whole wheat,” or “stone-ground whole.” 
  • Use brown or wild rice instead of the white varieties. They are available in short-grain, long-grain, jasmine, and basmati, among others. Many rice recipes, such as risottos and rice pudding, can be adapted to brown rice.
  • Rediscover oats. Oats are not just for breakfast porridge. They are super versatile and is a fantastic substitute for breadcrumbs. Just pulse rolled oats for a few seconds on a food processor to grind into a coarse meal. Use them on your meatballs, burger patties and meatloaves for a fiber-enhanced dinner.
  • Experiment with different flours. Many whole grain flours can be used to replace part of the all-purpose flour in your favourite recipes.
  • Explore different grains. Think beyond brown rice. Try teff, quinoa, millet, freekeh, bulgur or barley. You can add them to salads, stews and soups or use as a replacement for rice.