Harvard Health Letter

Eat more whole grains to stay healthy, suggests Harvard study

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Are you eating three servings of whole grains per day, the amount recommended by the U.S. Dietary Guidelines? "Most people in the United States are getting just one serving per day," says Dr. Qi Sun, assistant professor at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. But boosting intake of whole grains, such as whole wheat or oats, may reduce the risk of an early death, according to a study from Dr. Sun and his colleagues, published June 13, 2016, in Circulation. They pooled information on almost 800,000 men and women from more than a dozen studies and surveys and found that compared with people who didn't eat many whole grains, those who ate three servings of whole grains daily (about 48 grams) had a 20% lower risk of death from any cause, a 25% lower risk of dying from cardiovascular disease, and a 14% lower risk of dying from cancer during the study period.

That doesn't prove that whole grains prevent early death, but it adds to increasing evidence that whole grains, such as bran cereal or popcorn, are important for health. "Whole grains contain fiber, magnesium, vitamins, and phytochemicals. Collectively they may help lower the risk of diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and colon cancer," says Dr. Sun. His tip for easing more whole grains into the diet: try a 50% mix, such as a sandwich with at least one slice of whole wheat bread, or a rice mixture that contains at least 50% brown rice.