Benefits of Whole Grains
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When considering the host of positive dietary changes one can make, putting priority on consuming whole grains is one alteration that can have significant effects. Immediate effects can vary based on the type of fiber one consumes via whole grains. Both soluble and insoluble fiber is obtained through eating whole grains, both of which contribute to the following:
- Greater control of blood sugar
- Lower cholesterol
- Greater feelings of "fullness" after a meal, which can contribute to weight loss.
- Fiber also contributes to more regular bowel movements
- The growth of good bacteria in the large intestine due to the presence of lactic acid
In the long term, eating whole grains can help reduce the risk of a number of illnesses, including colon cancer and diverticulitis. Studies have also shown that individuals who eat whole grains on a lower basis, especially women, are at a significantly reduced risk for heart disease. For men, this also translates to a lower likelihood of hypertension. Additionally, some whole grains can provide vitamins and minerals not typically found in other grains, including vitamin C, calcium, and B vitamins; iron, magnesium, selenium, and zinc can also be found in various whole grains. Generally speaking, a diet that includes whole grains is more likely to be an all-around healthier diet; the implications of this are profound, ranging from reduced rates of inflammatory diseases to a greater distribution of fat in the body, to lower risks of medical complications during pregnancy.
In addition to fruits and vegetables, the new dietary guidelines specify that my diet should also consist of at least three servings of whole grains, such as whole wheat or oats, and three cups of low-fat milk or other dairy products, such as low-fat yogurt or cheese, each day. While I do currently eat whole-grain cereals and drink skim milk, I do not consume three servings a day of either one. This seems simple to improve upon by exchanging white bread for whole wheat and snacking on skim mozzarella sticks.
Finally, the recommendations include limiting total fat to between 20-35% of total calories and choosing foods with mainly monounsaturated or polyunsaturated fats (Nappo-Dattoma 34). I currently use olive oil with my food and can limit my consumption of unhealthy fats by avoiding the occasional fast-food meals altogether.
Healthy eating is not enough to maintain a healthy lifestyle and healthy weight; one must also exercise regularly. While my current weight and percent of body fat is within a healthy range, at 135 lbs and 19.7%, respectively, my overall physical fitness is not at the level at which I would like it to be. I am certainly not alone in my lack of regular exercise. Approximately 80% of American adults do not exercise enough to achieve any level of health benefits, which could eventually contribute to cardiovascular disease. My goal is to improve my level of fitness as much as possible and achieve an excellent level of health through increased exercise and strength training.