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Grains

What are the benefits of grains in a healthy eating pattern?

Foods in the grain food group offer a unique package of nutrients.

Grains are important sources of many nutrients, including fiber, B vitamins (thiamin, riboflavin, niacin and folate) and minerals (iron, magnesium and selenium). People who eat whole grains as part of a healthy diet have a reduced risk of some chronic diseases. The USDA recommends that half the day’s grain choices be whole grain. 

Whole grains have not been milled and contain the entire grain kernel; milling gives a finer texture but removes the fiber, iron and B vitamins. Examples of whole grains include whole-wheat flour, oatmeal, whole cornmeal and brown rice. 

Suggestions for incorporating whole grains into a healthy eating pattern include adding a whole-wheat bagel or toast to breakfast, eating a sandwich on whole-grain bread at lunch or including whole-wheat pasta with dinner.

How Many Servings of Grains Are Recommended?

Daily Recommendation  
 AgeNo. of servings*
Children2–3 years3 ounce equivalents
Children4–8 years5 ounce equivalents
Girls9–18 years5–6 ounce equivalents
Boys9–18 years6–8 ounce equivalents
Women19–50 years6 ounce equivalents
Women51+ years5 ounce equivalents
Men19–30 years8 ounce equivalents
Men31–50 years7 ounce equivalents
Men51+ years6 ounce equivalents

*An ounce equivalent is equal to one regular slice of bread, ½ cup cooked oatmeal, ½ cup cooked pasta, 3 cups popped popcorn, ½ cup cooked rice or one small flour tortilla. 

Essential Nutrients in Grains

Whole grains have a positive impact on both heart and digestive health. Some of the nutrients in whole grains include: 

  • Fiber: Whole grains contain fiber that may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease and constipation when included in a healthy eating pattern. High-fiber foods also give a feeling of fullness, which may help with weight maintenance.
  • Minerals: Iron is used to carry oxygen in the blood. Magnesium is a mineral used in building bones and releasing energy from muscles. Selenium is important for a healthy immune system. 
  • B vitamins: The B vitamins help the body release energy from protein, fats and carbohydrates. 
  • Phytochemicals: These nutrients naturally occur in plants and are being studied for their ability to protect against disease. 

Find out more about the relationship of a healthy eating pattern and activity to overall health by visiting the Healthy Eating page. 

References 
Why is it important to eat grains, especially whole grains? US Department of Agriculture ChooseMyPlate.gov website. 
https://www.choosemyplate.gov/eathealthy/grains/grains-nutrients-health. Accessed October 1, 2019.  

What foods are in the Grains Group? US Department of Agriculture ChooseMyPlate.gov website. https://www.choosemyplate.gov/eathealthy/grains. Accessed October 1, 2019.