The “Whole” Story on Whole Grains

Getting three servings of whole grains every day is an essential part of a healthy diet, [4] but whole grains have a whole lot more to offer than just heart-healthy fiber. Here’s what makes them so special.

Multilayered Goodness

To be considered a whole-grain flour or a whole-grain food, the item must include all three layers of the grain kernel: the bran, the germ and the endosperm, which is the innermost part of the kernel. [1,2] While nearly all grains we eat are processed so we can eat them, refined grains, by comparison, have been milled -- a process that removes the bran and germ, including the fiber and other nutrients found in those components. [1,2]

Satisfying and Heart-Smart

The hero of whole grains is the fiber content. The soluble and insoluble fiber found in whole grains can help support healthy cholesterol and may lower the risk of heart disease. However, not all whole-grain foods are good sources of fiber so be sure to look for at least 3g of fiber per serving on the nutrition facts box. [5,7]

Benefits Beyond Fiber

Whole grains (including wheat, rice, oats, corn and rye) contain vitamins E and B, iron, magnesium and selenium. [3,4,6] The suite of B vitamins found in whole grains includes thiamin, riboflavin, niacin and folate. [3,6] Whole grains also include many essential minerals, including magnesium, selenium, copper and manganese. [3,4,6]

To gain all of these heart-healthy benefits, choose foods with the words “whole grain” and “bran” in the ingredients list and look for at least 3 g fiber. [5]


1. Whole Grains Council: What is a Whole Grain

Accessed 8/5/2013

2. Choose My Plate: What Foods are in the Grains Group

Accessed 7/2/2013

3. Choose My Why is it Important to Eat Grains, Especially Whole Grains?

Accessed 7/2/2013

4. Harvard School of Public Health: Health Gains from Whole Grains

Accessed 7/2/2013

5. American Diabetes Association: Whole Grain Foods

Accessed 8/5/2013

6. Consumption of cereal fiber, mixtures of whole grains and bran, and

whole grains and risk reduction in type 2 diabetes, obesity, and

cardiovascular disease1–4

Susan S Cho,5 Lu Qi,6 George C Fahey Jr,7 and David M Klurfeld8*

Am J Clin Nutr August 2013 98: 2 594-619

7. Nutrition Facts: Whole Grains

Accessed 8/6/2013
by the Publishers of Prevention