MU Extension MU Extension       University of Missouri    ●    Columbia    ●    Kansas City       Missouri S&T     ●    St. Louis - Food and Fitness


Feature Articles: Food, Fitness and Health


Whole grains for heart health

Janet Hackert, regional nutrition and health education specialist, Harrison County, University of Missouri Extension


It has been known for a while that whole grains help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and high blood pressure. Soluble fiber in whole grains also helps decrease blood cholesterol. A recent study, reported in Tufts University’s Health and Nutrition Letter, shows that by “eating an average of one additional serving of whole grain per day participants were 7% less likely to suffer heart failure over the course of the (13 year) study.” This study, which observed over 14,000 people in four different communities in the United States, gives one more reason to choose whole grains over refined grains.

Whole grains have become quite popular with food manufacturers since the 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans and its companion symbol, MyPyramid, came out recommending that we should “make half our grains whole grains.” But don’t be taken in by marketers’ ploys to attract consumers to their foods. Looking at the front of a food package may be misleading. Package designers use eye-catching lettering for “whole wheat” or “whole grain” to draw us in. To know for sure if a food can legitimately be considered a whole grain or not, turn your attention from the front/back of the label to the ingredient list, often found on the side.

When a food is a whole grain, its first ingredient - the one that is the most by weight - will be a whole grain. It may use the word “whole,” as in “whole wheat flour” or “whole grain corn meal.” Or it may use a word that denotes a whole grain, such as “brown rice” or “popcorn.” Other words that can indicate a whole grain include wild rice, bulgur, cracked wheat, amaranth, millet, quinoa, sorghum and triticale. Words that do not guarantee whole grain are multi-grain, stone-ground, 100% wheat, 7 grain and bran. “Fortified” or “enriched” also sound impressive, but if these are first in the ingredient list, that food is not a whole grain.

To help protect your heart, consider substituting some or all of the processed grain foods you eat with a comparable whole grain food.



Last update: Tuesday, May 05, 2009


University of Missouri logo links to

Site Administrator:
Copyright  ADA  Equal Opportunity

MissouriFamilies is produced by the College of Human Environmental Sciences,
Extension Division, University of Missouri