Grains are more than fiber

September 05, 2001|By Betsy Hornick | Betsy Hornick,KNIGHT RIDDER/TRIBUNE

When nutritionists discuss the benefits of whole grains, they usually mention fiber. But the latest research focuses on an array of vitamins, minerals and hundreds of phytochemicals found in whole-grain foods.

"It's not to say that the fiber in whole grains doesn't still play an important part," says Joanne Slavin, a professor of nutrition and whole-grains researcher at the University of Minnesota. "But recent findings suggest that it's more than just fiber. In fact, it's the whole food - literally the whole grain."

The individual components of whole grains - the vitamins, minerals, fiber and phytochemicals - appear to work together in powerful ways to help protect against chronic diseases such as heart disease, certain cancers and diabetes, Slavin says. When it comes to fighting chronic disease - and living longer - whole-grain foods are emerging as nutritional powerhouses.

According to Dr. David Jacobs Jr., a University of Minnesota researcher, the premature death rate is 15 percent to 25 percent lower in people who regularly eat whole grains compared to those who mostly consume refined grains.

In a study of 34,000 post-menopausal women, Jacobs reports that even one daily serving of a whole-grain food significantly reduced the risk of death from all causes when compared to women who ate almost no whole-grain foods. Eating at least one whole-grain food each day is projected to reduce deaths from heart disease and cancer for all Americans by about 8 percent.

Most Americans barely get even one serving of whole grains daily, and only 7 percent eat the recommended three daily servings.

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