I’m sure by now you’ve heard from someone or read somewhere that whole grains are good for you. But what exactly are these and why should older adults be eating them? Read on!

Grains are the seeds of grass-like plants called cereals. Some of the most common varieties are corn, rice and wheat. Some seeds of non-grass plants, or pseudocereals, are also considered whole grains. These include buckwheat, quinoa and amaranth

Whole grains have all of the parts of the original kernel — bran, germ, and endosperm — in the original proportions. There are many kinds of whole grains, including:

  • Oatmeal
  • Popcorn
  • Millet
  • Quinoa
  • Brown rice
  • Whole rye
  • Wild rice
  • Wheat berry
  • Bulgur
  • Buckwheat
  • Freekeh
  • Barley
  • Sorghum

Products made from these are also thought of as whole grain foods. These include bread, pasta and some breakfast cereals.

So why should you be consuming whole grain foods? Here are five reasons why:

1. Whole grains have a lot of fiber

Fiber is a major reason to consume whole grains. Adults need an estimated 25 to 35 grams of fiber each day, and whole grains hold two types—soluble and insoluble—which are considered beneficial to your health. Fiber’s health benefits are well documented. It can help regulate blood sugar, lessen LDL or "bad" cholesterol, and diminish the risk of colon cancer. Do note that not all whole grains are high in fiber. Experts suggest eating oats, barley and bulgur.

2. Aids digestion

The fiber content in whole grains help keeps bowel movements regular and hold off diverticulosis, a condition wherein small pouches form in the colon wall, causing inflammation, constipation, diarrhea, and pain. Whole grains also have lactic acid, which fosters the creation of "good bacteria" in the large intestine. These organisms facilitate digestion, endorse improved absorption of nutrients, and may even fortify the body’s immune system.

3. Lowers cholesterol

Whole grains not only prevent your body from taking in "bad" cholesterol, but may also drop triglycerides, both of which lead to heart disease. Studies have shown that women that consumed 2-3 servings of whole grain products each day were 30% less likely to suffer a heart attack or perish from heart disease compared to those who ate less than a serving each week. Any form of whole grain—whole wheat, oats, brown rice, barley, corn, quinoa, rye, buckwheat, and millet—will offer benefits for heart health.

4. Lowers blood pressure

Whole grains also aids in lowering blood pressure, a major element for heart disease. Research has found a 19% lower risk of hypertension among men who ate over 7 servings of whole grain breakfast cereal a week as opposed to those who ate one or less. Studies in women also uncovered a benefit as eating whole grains instead of refined grains extensively lowers blood cholesterol, triglycerides, blood pressure, and insulin levels.

5. Regulates blood sugar

Whole grains can prevent your blood glucose from spiking which can lessen your risk of developing type 2 diabetes, among other ailments. Studies have uncovered that women who had 2-3 servings of whole grains each day had a 30% lower chance of diabetes than in women who had little to none at all. Moreover, further analysis
found a 32% less risk of diabetes in people who consumed 3 or more servings a day of whole grains versus a 5% risk reduction in those who ate refined grains.