By Michelle Malia
Bring on the bread: Eating whole grains can keep your heart healthy, new research from England suggests.
After reviewing 45 studies, researchers concluded that eating 3 daily servings of whole grains—that’s 90 grams, or the amount in 3 slices of whole-grain bread—can reduce your risk of heart disease by 22 percent and of dying prematurely from any cause by 17 percent.
And it’s not just because people who eat more whole grains tend to make other heart-healthy choices: Most of studies adjusted for factors like body mass index (BMI), smoking status, exercise, and calorie intake.
That means there’s likely something about whole grains themselves that is responsible for the link.
Chalk it up to certain nutrients like fiber, zinc, iron, B vitamins, and vitamin E in whole grains, says lead study author Dagfinn Aune, Ph.D.(c).
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These nutrients work together to lower cholesterol and improve how your body processes blood sugar—as well as helping fend off obesity by keeping you full and satisfied, he says.
And all these factors help keep your heart healthy.
Most of these nutrients are found in the bran and the germ of the whole grain, both of which are removed during the refining process.
That’s why you won’t get the same benefit from eating refined grains, like white rice, white bread, or pastas.
In fact, the nutrient content for these is reduced by half, Aune says.
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Try swapping white rice for barley or quinoa, white breads for whole-grain options, and sugary breakfast cereals for oats.
And even if you don’t make it to the 3-serving mark every day, you can reap some benefits by making a couple swaps: Eating two daily servings still can reduce your risk of dying prematurely from any cause by 15 percent, the review concluded.