Eating whole grains may be a simple way to protect against heart disease

Common health advice often includes "eat more whole grains," but it's easy to lose sight of one's diet composition and end up consuming less than the recommended servings. A new study from Tufts University offers a good reason to reevaluate your diet and make sure you get enough servings of whole grains every day: it may help protect you from heart disease later in life.

"Whole grains" refers to grains like wheat, oatmeal, brown rice, and millet that haven't been refined to remove the bran and other elements. Though refined grains are common, it's simple to get ahold of whole-grain food products in many places — they're often sold as whole-grain and multi-grain bread, for example, plus these grains are often sold in bulk.

Making sure to get three or more servings of these whole grains every day may help prevent risk factors that lead to heart disease, according to the new study. The research involved middle-aged and older adults using data pulled from the Framingham Heart Study Offspring Cohort. Information on 3,100 participants was used; they had an average age of "mid-50s" and were mostly white.

The researchers looked at five heart disease risk factors, including blood sugar levels, triglycerides, good cholesterol, blood pressure, and waist size. A serving of whole grains, meanwhile, is considered half a cup of brown rice, a half-cup of rolled oats, or a slice of whole-grain bread, according to the study.

Using years of data, the study found that participants who consumed at least three servings of whole grains daily experienced a slower increase in waist size compared to people who had low whole-grain intake. The researchers accounted for changes in waist size and found that despite it, the low-intake participants still experienced a greater increase in blood pressure and sugar levels compared to those who ate more whole grains daily.