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Cholesterol : For Cholesterol Support, Go with the (Whole) Grain

We've all heard the buzz about whole grains and how important they are for good health. But did you know they're particularly helpful for supporting healthy cholesterol levels? According to the American Heart Association, high LDL (low-density lipoprotein, or "bad") cholesterol is a major risk factor for developing heart disease.

September is Whole Grains month, so celebrate by incorporating these healthy foods into your everyday diet -- your heart will thank you!

Any food made from wheat, rice, oats, corn, or another cereal grain is considered a grain product. There are two main types of grains: whole grains and refined grains.

Whole grains contain the entire grain, which includes the bran, germ, and endosperm. Examples of whole grains include whole wheat, barley, wild rice, brown rice, oats, popcorn, quinoa, and buckwheat.

Refined grains have been ground into flour or meal, resulting in the germ being removed. Refining grains gives them a finer texture and a longer shelf life, but it also removes some important nutrients, including B vitamins, fiber, and iron. White rice, white flour, and wheat flour (as opposed to whole-wheat flour) are examples of refined grains. Most refined grains are enriched, meaning that some of the B vitamins and iron -- but not the fiber -- are added after processing.

Many of whole grains' health benefits are due to their fantastic fiber, which is linked to improved cholesterol levels. Studies find that individuals who consume a diet rich in whole grains have significantly lower levels of LDL cholesterol than people whose diets do not contain whole grains.

The fiber in whole grains is also associated with a lower risk of heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes. Fiber also makes you feel full, which can make you consume fewer calories. Managing a healthy weight also contributes to heart health, as well as overall wellness and disease prevention.

To identify whole-grain foods, the American Heart Association recommends looking for the following ingredients first on the label's ingredients list:
  • Whole wheat, graham flour
  • Oatmeal, whole oats
  • Brown rice
  • Wild rice
  • Whole-grain barley
  • Whole-wheat bulgur
  • Whole rye
Maintaining healthy cholesterol levels are an important step toward supporting cardiovascular health, so incorporate plenty of whole grains into your heart-healthy diet.
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