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Grains for Your Health

Food Fitness. Nourish your body.

Foods in the Breads, Cereals, Rice, and Pasta category all are good sources of energy.

Bowl of cereal with strawberries

In addition, they provide thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, iron, and fiber. They are low in fat and cholesterol naturally, because they derive from plant sources. Exceptions include croissants, pastries, fried snacks, some crackers, muffins, doughnuts, and fritters.

The Food Guide Pyramid suggests eating six to eleven servings from the Bread, Cereal, Rice, and Pasta group on a daily basis. It does sound like a lot, but it truly isn't. Following is some common serving sizes to help you determine and choose your five to six servings a day:

A serving is:

  • One slice of bread Sliced Bread
  • One ounce of ready-to-eat cereal
  • 1/2-cup cooked cereal, rice, or pasta

Acidic Problems?

Refrain from eating wheat products. Wheat, even whole wheat, is very acidifying and can counter potential benefits. Wheat products include pastas, couscous, pastries, and breads. Instead, opt for spelt, kamut, brown rice, or other whole grain breads that do not contain any white flour. You can also eat brown rice, millet, oatmeal, wild rice, and other whole grains.

For healthier eating:

  • Choose breads, cereals, rice and pasta made from whole grains. This includes whole wheat bread, bran cereal, whole-wheat pasta, and brown rice. Always check Nutrition Facts if you're not sure if you are making the right selection; these foods should provide at least two grams of fiber per serving.
  • Reduce the amount of high fat or high sugar foods in this category like sweet rolls, croissants, or doughnuts. Try to limit those choices to three a week. If you wish, you could try replacing them with a small bagel, cereal, bread sticks, or an English muffin.
  • Extra butter, margarine, oil and mayonnaise make foods from this category very high in calories. If you typically spread a teaspoon of butter on your bread, try using half this amount.
  • For snacks, try pretzels, air-popped popcorn, baked tortilla or pita chips, or bread sticks. To satisfy a sweet craving, try gingersnaps, animal crackers (read the labes on these - some are full of fat and calories), graham crackers, or angel food cake.
  • Watch portion sizes, even when eating low-fat or low-calorie products. That label is not a free ticket to gorge!
  • Try something new -- and healthy. Suggestions: Couscous, orzo, risotto, or polenta are good choices if you have not tried them before. Try some Low Fat Recipes or Low Calorie Recipes and make into portion sizes and store leftovers accordingly.

Cut Risk of Heart Disease

A daily serving of whole grains cuts risk of heart disease by 9 percent, says a study from the Harvard School of Public Health. For bread and other processed carbs, don't be misled by label lingo like "100 percent wheat" or "Multigrain"; instead, scan ingredients for actual whole wheat and grain. Better still, stock up on barley, brown rice, whole rolled oats, millet, even popcorn.

FYI: Three servings a day of whole grains minimize Alzheimer's risk, too.

Source: JAMA Internal Medicine

The Food Pyramid

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