Have you ever heard the saying “the whiter the bread, the sooner you’re dead?” That old-fashioned sentiment seems to be spot on, as recent research has found that eating more whole grains (i.e. not the refined, white stuff) might help you live longer. The latest study, published in the journal Circulation, analyzed 14 previous trials and found that those who ate the most whole grains — 70 grams a day, or about 4 servings — were significantly less likely to die during the trials than people who hardly ate any.
While this research identified a link between eating plenty of whole grains and a lower risk of dying from any cause, it appears that they’re especially good at helping to reduce the risk of fatal cardiovascular disease (including heart attacks and stroke). That makes a lot of sense considering that they’re high in fiber, which has been shown to lower LDL cholesterol (the “bad” kind) and fight off insulin resistance — a condition that raises your risk for type 2 diabetes as well as heart trouble. That’s also why the American Heart Association recommends that at least half of the grains you eat each day are whole ones; most people should aim for at least three servings of whole grains a day.
So what counts? Whole-wheat bread is just the beginning. Oatmeal, barley, brown rice, wild rice, and quinoa are whole grains, too. So is popcorn (hold the butter) and any grain that contains all the key parts of the original kernel: the bran, germ, and endosperm. (Refined grains have had the bran and germ removed.) Aside from fiber, these “intact” grains also offer more vitamins, antioxidants, and protein than refined ones. One cup of brown rice, for instance, has 3.5 grams of fiber (white rice has 1.2 grams), 5 grams of protein (versus 4.2 grams in white rice), and 21 percent of the daily value of magnesium (which rice provides a mere 1 percent).
Making the switch from refined bread, cereal, and pasta might seem daunting, but it doesn’t have to be. There are lots of creative and delicious ways to enjoy whole grains. Check out our cooking guide, based on the 21 Day Fix plan and Beachbody’s Portion Fix containers, and get started today.