September is National Cholesterol Education Month which calls attention to dietary habits that promote normal cholesterol levels and decrease the risk of cardiovascular disease. Incorporating whole grains into your daily diet is an important part of keeping cholesterol in check. Delicious and nutritious, whole grains are packed with fiber, vitamins, and minerals; some even offer a complete protein! Use September to start making simple swaps and enjoy the goodness of whole grains!
What makes a grain whole? As compared to refined grains, whole grains contain all three components of the kernel- the fiber-rich bran, vitamin and mineral loaded germ, and starchy endosperm. Refined grains are stripped of their bran and germ leaving them without fiber, iron, and other key nutrients.
Made by our liver, cholesterol is necessary for the production of certain hormones and provides the structure of our body’s cells. However, when the cholesterol levels in our blood gets too high, especially LDL cholesterol, our risk for developing heart disease increases. By blocking the absorption of cholesterol into the bloodstream, the fiber found in whole grains including oatmeal and barley helps to keep cholesterol in check and promotes heart health.
When it comes to grain products such as breads and cereals always look to the ingredient list first. Though a loaf of bread may be labeled as multi-grain or stone-ground, this does not guarantee that it was made with whole grains. Additionally, color cannot be used an indicator as molasses or other additives are used to impart the distinctive brown color of whole grain products. When choosing these products always make sure that whole grain flour is the first ingredient listed.
Ranging from common, every day grains, like brown rice and whole wheat bread, to more exotic grains like freekeh and black rice, you can customize and add variety to any meal. Some whole grains, like quinoa, are even complete proteins. Enjoy grains for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and surprisingly dessert. Freekeh has a similar consistency to steal cut oatmeal, creating a warm and hearty breakfast. Wheat berries add a nice texture to stews, chilies, and soups. Black rice has a nutty flavor and makes any dish pop with color. Simply switching brown rice for white rice in your favorite stir fry recipe boosts fiber and flavor. Quinoa, and some other grains, can be ground into flour and used for baking. The meal options are endless!
How do you plan on adding whole grains to your meals this month?