Of the five food groups experts recommend we eat daily – fruits, vegetables, dairy, protein, and grains – grains are probably the food group most of your calories come from. Bread, corn and types of cereals such as rice, wheat and oats all make up some of our favorite foods. Even some breakfast cereals start with wheat or corn and are manufactured to look and taste the way we’e used to.

Science has shown regular consumption of rice, oats and other grains has more health benefits than you thought. Let’s look at the facts.

Improved heart and digestive health

Regular consumption of fiber is great for both your cardiovascular and digestive system. Dietary fiber, found in foods like corn and whole wheat pasta, is one of the many benefits of consuming cereals regularly. Wild rice, for example, is good for heart health because of its high fiber content. It lowers our LDL (“bad”) cholesterol levels, which is good news for our hearts. It’s also good for bowel health and controlling blood sugar and keeps you fuller longer, which can reduce your risk of unintentionally overeating.

Decreased risk of disease

One key to living healthier is to do all you can to avoid developing chronic diseases like diabetes, obesity or cancer. According to the Whole Grains Council, studies have shown that eating cereals on a regular basis reduces our risk of developing type 2 diabetes by 21-30%. It has also been found to help reduce high blood pressure levels.

What else does the research tell us?

A 2015 study out of JAMA Internal Medicine concluded that higher intake of whole grains was associated with a lower mortality rate in both men and women. Which means your beloved whole wheat bread, oatmeal and rice should remain a definite dietary staple on your personal menu.

A study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology suggested that quality carbohydrates, such as cereals, can replace the use of saturated fats in daily caloric intake to reduce heart disease risk. So by eating fewer calories from butter or red meat and more from corn-based products and rice, your risk of heart failure goes down.

How to incorporate more cereals into your diet

  • Use whole wheat flour instead of refined white flour when making homemade rolls, scones, pancakes or waffles for breakfast
  • Make soup with rice or barley instead of noodles
  • Snack on whole grain crackers, popcorn and pretzels
  • Choose whole grain bread when given the option at restaurants

Starting the day off with a healthy, nutritious meal is a foolproof way to put healthy eating habits at the top of your to-do list. Here is a delicious oatmeal recipe to start your journey toward a longer, healthier life.

BAKED OATMEAL

Prep time: 50 minutes

Servings: 8

Ingredients

3 cups rolled oats

1 cup brown sugar

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

1 cup redcued fat milk

2 eggs

1/2 cup melted butter

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In a large bowl, mix together all ingredients, adding them in the order in which they appear above. Spread the mixture into a 9×13-inch baking dish

Bake 40 minutes and serve hot.

Serving this dish with your choice of toppings adds even more flavor and health benefits.

A balanced diet overall is what’s going to help you live longer, happier and healthier, but making sure you’re eating the right kinds of foods in each food group is even more important. Cereals, if consumed as often as possible from day to day, will help keep your heart beating, your digestive system moving and your blood sugar under control.

Keep eating those grains! Your health will thank you.

Featured photo credit: tracyshaun via flickr.com

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