The 11 Healthiest Whole Grains You Should Be Eating

The 11 Healthiest Whole Grains You Should Be Eating

Carbs get a negative rap because so many people reach for the wrong ones: refined carbohydrates in white bread, candy, cookies, sugary cereals, and all sorts of other treats and drinks. However, a low intake of whole grains is actually the leading dietary risk factor for death and disease in the U.S., according to a 2019 study published in the Lancet

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Working these healthy grains into your diet can help prevent health problems like heart disease, diabetes, colon cancer, and possibly asthma and Alzheimer’s. On the flipside, eating too many refined carbs is linked to negative outcomes, like a higher risk of ticker trouble.

“100% whole grains are a key component of any nutritious diet,” confirms Jaclyn London, MS, RD, CDN, Nutrition Director at the Good Housekeeping Institute. “They’re a great place to start if you’re looking to make a healthier choice that doesn’t disrupt your whole routine. Start slow and keep it simple by cutting your usual refined-grain ingredients with 100% whole-grain versions.”

These 11 grains are worth keeping at the top of your shopping list.

Whole Wheat
Wholewheat Pasta Close up
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This one is pretty easy, as long as you don’t let food marketers trick you. It can be readily found in bread and pasta products, but make sure the label says “100% whole wheat.” Terms like “multigrain” and “wheat” don’t cut it. When you’re shopping for any whole-grain product, look at the ingredients and make sure the whole grain is at or near the top of the list. Each serving should contain at least 2 or 3 grams of fiber.

Whole Oats
Breakfast: oatmeal with bananas, blueberries, chia seeds and almonds
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Oats are particularly rich in avenanthramide, an antioxidant that protects the heart. When you’re shopping for this whole grain, whether you see the word “whole” or not doesn’t matter the way it does with wheat products. Oats in the ingredients list mean the product is made from whole oats.

But, if you are buying something like instant oatmeal, avoid those that contain high-fructose corn syrup. We suggest sticking to the good old-fashioned unsweetened kind and mixing in a little fruit or honey.

Brown Rice
Cooked Brown Rice side view
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When you choose white rice over brown, around 75% of its nutrients — including nearly all the antioxidants, magnesium, phosphorus, and B vitamins contained in the healthy bran and germ — are left on the milling-room floor. Always opt for brown rice, which includes brown aromatic varieties like basmati and jasmine. Get even more exotic with red and black rice, both of which are considered whole grains and are high in antioxidants. Though technically a grass, wild rice is also considered a whole grain and is rich in B vitamins, such as niacin and folate.

Whole Rye
Freshly baked sliced rye bread
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Rye has more nutrients per 100-calorie serving than any other whole grain, according to nutritional research from the nonprofit The Organic Center. It has four times more fiber than standard whole wheat and provides you with nearly 50% of your daily recommended amount of iron. The problem is, most rye and pumpernickel bread in grocery stores is made with refined flours. Be persistent and look for “whole rye” topping the ingredients list to get the healthy benefits.

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