Whole grains are a very important element to healthy, balanced eating. They provide essential nutrients and have many different health benefits. In addition to containing various vitamins and minerals, whole grains contain fiber, and fiber is important in helping reduce our blood cholesterol. But it seems that whole grains may also play a role in helping us control our blood pressure.
I recently came across this article (click the link) that discusses the importance of whole grain cereals in reducing blood pressure. Whole grain cereals can make a good addition to a healthy eating plan. Not only are they convenient, but whole grain cereals can contain important vitamins and minerals like iron, potassium, vitamin C, folate and calcium. The fiber found in whole grain cereals can assist with healthy bowel function, lowering blood cholesterol, and, as this article suggests, may help lower blood pressure.
When looking for whole grain cereals, some options tend to be healthier than others. You want to look for a cereal that has the words ‘whole grain’ or ‘whole wheat’ as the first ingredient. If a label just says, ‘wheat,’ this does not mean it is a whole grain. Sometimes you can determine if a cereal is using whole grains by the fiber content. If a cereal has at least 3 grams of fiber per serving, it most likely is a whole grain. Although, this is not always the case.
Additionally, some cereals tend to be high in sugars, so looking for a whole grain cereal that has less than 6 grams of sugar per serving is a good rule of thumb. Having said this, some whole grain cereals will contain dried fruit, which increases the sugar content of the cereal. If a whole grain cereal contains dried fruit, try to keep the sugar content to less than 12 grams of sugar per serving if possible.
Here are some of my favorite whole grain cereals:
- Wheat Chex
- Bran Flakes
- Grape Nuts
I realize that many of these cereals don’t taste particularly sweet, as they don’t contain a lot of sugar. However, this is a great opportunity to add a serving of fruit, like berries or a banana, to increase the sweetness in a more natural and healthy way. Plus you have the additional nutritional benefits from the fruit.
There are many other good options for whole grain cereals apart from the examples I’ve listed above. Last October, Jessica wrote an informative blog post called, ‘Breakfast Cereals,’ (click the link) in which she discussed what to look for when buying healthy breakfast cereals. Similarly, Emily wrote a great blog post titled, ‘Kid Tested, Mother Approved’ (click the link) where she talked about healthy breakfast cereals for children.
There are many other ways to incorporate whole grains into a healthy meal plan without eating breakfast cereals, but if you’re having a difficult time getting enough fiber or servings of whole grains into your meal plan, whole grain cereals can be an easy and convenient way of assisting with this. Plus, there may be the added benefit of reducing the risk for high blood pressure.
Rachel Andrew MPH, RD, CD