Doctors often tell us to eat fruits and vegetables daily. But what is the other staple that we should eat to help us live a longer life?

Reuters reports on a new study that shows that eating whole grains is connected with living longer. Two large studies show that people who eat more whole grains are likely to live longer and less likely to get heart disease.

Which foods have a lot of whole grains?

Many foods are rich in whole grains such as whole wheat flour, brown rice, whole oats, whole cornmeal, and popcorn. The majority of U.S. dietary guidelines recommend whole grains, with the total amount depending on age. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) says more than fifty percent of the grains consumed each day should come from whole grains.

How was the study conducted?

The new studies were reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association for Internal Medicine. They are from women in the Nurses’ Health Study, which lasted from 1984 to 2010, and men in the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study between 1986 and 2010. Both of the studies had health records and dietary questionnaires that were updated periodically.

What were the results?

Males and females who reported consuming more whole grains were more likely to be physically active than the other participants, to consume less alcohol. They also had healthier diets overall and to have a history of high cholesterol. Those participants were also not as likely to be current smokers.

What else did the studies show?

Reuters explains, “Of the more than 188,000 study participants who started out without heart disease or cancer, almost 27,000 had died by 2010. Those who reported eating the most whole grains were almost 10 percent less likely to die during the course of the study than those who reported eating the least, even when the authors accounted for age, smoking, body mass index, physical activity and other dietary habits.”

The researchers also found that with every additional 28 grams (about 1 ounce) of whole grains per day, the danger of death went down by five percent. They also found that the risk of heart disease death went down by around nine percent.

How many whole grains should you be having?

One serving of old fashioned oats, or half a cup uncooked, contains 40 grams of whole grains and the more you consumer the better.

Critics of the study state that most studies have not been able to come out with a single effect of whole grains but do concede to the point that whole grains are helpful in maintaining good health.

Dr. Sun, head of the nutrition department at Harvard’s School of Public Health, authored the study.

He said, “Reading the ingredients of food labels, consumers will know whether the food contains any whole grain contents. Whole grains don’t lead to rapid changes in blood sugar and insulin levels, while refined grains or other carbohydrates, such as sugar do, which may explain why whole grains are associated with lower diabetes and cardiovascular disease risk. They also contain beneficial nutrients like magnesium, vitamins and lignans, and they may jointly lead to lower risk of developing heart disease and diabetes.”

Fox news also reported on the studies. People can add simple foods to their diet such as quinoa and popcorn to get their daily servings of whole grains. Eating bran was apparently the most helpful thing in reducing risk of heart disease according to the researchers.

Dr. Sun told Fox, “If you are really looking into whole-grain consumption with other diseases, stroke, heart disease and colorectal cancer, whole grains are consistently associated with a lower risk of those diseases.”

Gerry Oginski
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