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Role of Grains in a Healthy Diet

Grains play a vital role in a healthy, balanced diet for many reasons:

  • The complex carbohydrates in bread, rice, and other grain-based foods provide essential fuel the body needs.
  • People who consume a medium-to-high percentage of carbohydrates in the diet have a reduced risk of obesity (Journal of the American Dietetic Association, July 2009).
  • Grain foods are a major source of iron, a key nutrient in the production and release of energy to the body.
  • Enriched grains are the primary source of folic acid in Americans’ diets and have been shown to reduce specific types of neural tube defects.
  • Enriched grains provide our bodies with essential B vitamins (niacin, thiamine and riboflavin), which collectively help maintain a healthy nervous system and increase energy production, and which may help lower cholesterol.
  • Enriched grains are responsible for the eradication of pellagra and beriberi from the US population.
  • The industry is celebrating the 70th anniversary of the enrichment of grains this year, first mandated by the U.S. government in 1941 to address Americans’ undernourishment.
  • The May 20, 2011, CDC report, “10 Great Public Health Achievements 2001-2010” listed fortification of enriched products as one of its key achievements contributing to a 36 percent drop in neural tube defects from 1996-2006 (Morbidity and Mortality Weekly, 2011).
  • Since the 1998 implementation of folic acid fortification, approximately 10,000 neural tube defect affected pregnancies have been prevented.
  • NTDs remain a serious public health concern, with data showing rates among Hispanic women to be six times the national average. (“Knowledge-base of Hispanic Women about Neural Tube Defects and Folic Acid Supplementation,” Texas State University, 2007).
  • Folic acid fortification has reaped a cost savings of $4.7 billion in direct costs, according to the CDC.
  • Whole grains are naturally low in fat.
  • Whole grains are a good source of fiber.
  • Whole grains lower the risk of irritable bowel syndrome and diverticular disease.
  • Whole grains contain important nutrients such as selenium, potassium and magnesium, which collectively may help boost immunity, lower blood pressure and prevent heart disease and some forms of cancer.
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