Foods made from grains (like wheat, rice, and oats) help form the foundation of a nutritious diet. They provide vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates (starch and dietary fiber), and other substances that are important for good health.

Grain products are low in fat, unless fat is added in processing, in preparation, or at the table. Whole grains differ from refined grains in the amount of fiber and nutrients they provide, and different whole grain foods differ in nutrient content, so choose a variety of whole and enriched grains.

Eating plenty of whole grains, such as whole wheat bread or oatmeal, as part of the healthy eating patterns described by these guidelines, may help protect you against many chronic diseases. Aim for at least 6 servings of grain products per day - more if you are an older child or teenager, or an adult man, or an active woman - and include several servings of whole grain foods.

Why choose whole grain foods?

Vitamins, minerals, fiber, and other protective substances in whole grain foods contribute to the health benefits of whole grains. Refined grains are low in fiber and in the protective substances that accompany fiber. Eating plenty of fiber-containing foods, such as whole grains (and also many fruits and vegetables) promotes proper bowel function. The high fiber content of many whole grains may also help you to feel full with fewer calories. Fiber is best obtained from foods like whole grains, fruits, and vegetables rather than from fiber supplements for several reasons: there are many types of fiber, the composition of fiber is poorly understood, and other protective substances accompany fiber in foods. Use the Nutrition Facts Label to help choose grains that are rich in fiber and low in saturated fat and sodium.

How to increase your intake of whole grain foods

Choose foods that name one of the following ingredients first on the label's ingredient list

  • brown rice
  • bulgar (cracked wheat)
  • graham flour
  • whole grain corn
  • oatmeal
  • popcorn
  • pearl barley
  • whole oats
  • whole rye
  • whole wheat

Try some of these whole grain foods; whole wheat bread, whole grain ready-to-eat cereal, low-fat whole wheat crackers, oatmeal, whole wheat pasta, whole barley in soup, tabouli salad.

Provided by the United States Department of Agriculture