A diet that incorporates whole grains is thought to help prevent heart disease and stroke. Whole grains consist of intact grains that are composed of bran, germ and endosperm. As part of a healthy diet, whole grains should replace most or all of the refined grains found in foods with ingredients such as white flour. The fiber is removed from refined grains during processing, which lessens their nutritional benefit. Increasing consumption of whole grain foods in addition to maintaining a balanced diet reduces the risk of heart attacks. Bran is thought to improve heart health by reducing the body's amount of low density cholesterol. Foods such as oatmeal, popcorn and brown rice are high in whole grains.
Look for food products that contain whole grains. Check the ingredient list on the food's label. Ensure that the words "whole grain" or "whole" are listed. Check to make sure that the first ingredient listed is whole grain. Try to find foods that contain at least five grams of fiber in each serving. Eliminate as many refined food products from your diet as possible. Examples of refined food products include white pasta, white rice and most white breads.
Increase your daily dietary intake of whole grains to at least 3 oz. per day. You might consider increasing your daily intake to six to eleven servings of grains if desired. The USDA currently calls for six to eleven daily servings from the bread and grains food group. Sedentary and older adults require about six servings, teenage boys require around 11 and most children, adults, and teenage girls require about nine. Examples of 1 oz. servings of whole grains include one slice of whole wheat bread, one cup of slow-cooking oatmeal and three cups of popcorn. Substitute other heavily refined foods with whole grain versions. For example, instead of having regular pasta, substitute whole grain pasta; instead of eating white tortillas, eat whole wheat or whole grain tortillas.
Look for additional ways to increase your daily fiber intake. Start incorporating a bran or high fiber cereal into your diet one to three times a week. Make sure to maintain a healthy, balanced diet by continuing to eat from other food groups, including fruits and vegetables. Cut down on any unnecessary fats and sugars. Continue to limit the amount of refined grains that you consume, or eliminate them from your diet entirely.
Stick to a regular diet plan that provides at least three daily servings of whole grains. Plan your meals accordingly so that the increased whole grain consumption becomes a regular part of your lifestyle. Experiment with alternative whole grain breads and pastas, such as quinoa. Keep in mind that regular consumption of bran is needed to achieve and sustain improvements in your heart health.
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