Wouldn’t it be great if one single food you could eat would help you reduce your cardiovascular risk? Every year a new diet trend proposes one single food as the cure for all of our ailments. Acai, kale, and celery are some of the most recent trends, and the idea is very compelling for most people. If all you need to do to protect your heart health is drink more celery juice, it makes the rest of your life much easier. Eat the cake, drink the milkshake, just follow it up with a kale salad, and you’ll be fine!
Of course, this isn’t a realistic diet plan. Heart health requires a holistic approach. Patients must learn to eat a healthy diet, stay hydrated, get regular exercise, and enough sleep. There is no quick fix for establishing heart health. However, some tools make the process easier. One of those tools is whole grains. Admittedly, whole grain was once one of those trendy catchphrases that had people all over the country switching their bread of choice. You’ve seen whole-grain plastered on packaging at the grocery store, but how much do you really know about the product and the impact it can have on your cardiovascular health?
The term whole grains refers to grains that have not been refined, meaning they are still intact the way they come off the plant. Common examples of whole grains are oatmeal, brown rice, millet, barley, whole wheat, and even popcorn. Whole grains are composed of three parts: the bran, the germ, and the endosperm. When they are left intact, they include essential vitamins and minerals, including dietary fiber. It’s this fiber component that gives whole grains their heart-healthy reputation.
The Benefits Of Fiber
The soluble fiber found in whole grains is known to lower the amount of LDL or bad cholesterol in your blood. It can also slow the absorption of sugar into your blood, reducing a patient’s risk for diabetes. Lower cholesterol in your blood means fewer chances of developing plaque inside your arteries. A diet with increased whole grains is directly linked to a decrease in death by cardiovascular disease.
Curb Your Eating Habits
Another side benefit of whole-grain consumption is that it leaves you feeling fuller longer. So often, refined or processed foods don’t give your brain the signal that your dietary needs have been satiated. It’s easy to overeat processed foods because you never quite feel full. By sticking with whole grains, you’ll feel full faster and will be much less likely to overeat. Most of us know from experience how eating a reasonably portioned healthy diet is the perfect jumpstart to other healthy lifestyle changes. You are more apt to sleep well and move your body more easily when taking good care of your diet.
Today, most grocery stores have their shelves stocked with whole-grain foods, making it easier to make good choices for your heart health. One of the best ways to integrate whole grains into your diet is at the beginning of the day. Start your morning with a bowl of oatmeal or whole-grain, low-sugar cereal for just the boost to get you through the day.
The USDA now recommends that people take in 3 servings of whole grains per day. While that may seem like an overwhelming task, there are some pretty simple ways to meet this goal. One of the best tricks for integrating whole grains is simple substitution. If you eat white rice several times a week, trade it out for brown rice or quinoa. If you enjoy sugary cereal in the morning, substitute a bowl of oatmeal with a swirl of organic honey on top. Many patients are thrilled to hear that popcorn is a whole grain packed with dietary fiber. Just be careful you don’t cancel out the benefits by dousing it in butter and salt.
Now may also be an excellent opportunity to experiment with some whole grains you’ve never used before. Buckwheat, bulgur, millet, quinoa, sorghum, whole rye, and barley are all whole grain options that most households have never tried in earnest. If your local grocery store doesn’t carry the whole grains you’re interested in trying, consider shopping at a health food store or even ordering them online.
We’ll never tell you that one single food has the power to improve your heart health. As healthy as whole grains are, they’re only effective in the context of a healthy lifestyle. They’re not the answer to heart health, but they’re a great tool to help jumpstart the next phase of your health journey. Contact our office today if you’re interested in learning more about how a heart-healthy diet can improve your cardiovascular health.