So you've traded in the Wonder bread for whole wheat. Congratulations. But don't stop there. Not only are whole grains rich in fiber, protein, antioxidants, and minerals, but new research links whole-grain diets to a healthier heart and digestive system.
A recent Tufts University study found that eating three to four servings of whole grains daily, while eating no more than one serving of refined grains, results in less deep abdominal fat, the troublesome kind linked to hypertension, elevated cholesterol, and insulin resistance. Here are five supercharged whole grains and grainlike foods you can substitute into your diet without feeling like a health-food nut.
Nutrient-wise, it's sort of like a steak. Quinoa is one of the rare plant foods with high protein content, a complete deck of amino acids, and a lot of iron—but it's also a rich store of the potent antioxidant quercetin, as well as potassium, magnesium, zinc, and fiber. SWAP IT FOR: couscous
It was the staple food of the Aztecs, but this tiny pale-golden seed isn't well known in the United States. Too bad—it's a nutrient powerhouse. A cup has about nine grams of protein; lots of nutrients like iron, calcium, and magnesium; cholesterol-lowering phytosterols; and a complete amino-acid profile. Cook it just like oatmeal—two parts water to one part grain. SWAP IT FOR: rice or pasta, couscous
3. Black Rice
Getting your antioxidants from fresh berries can be pricey. A new report from scientists at Louisiana State University shows black rice is higher than blueberries in the powerful free-radical buster anthocyanin—while supplying more vitamin E and fiber. SWAP IT FOR: instant rice, white rice, or brown rice
The ultimate utility player, the flour from this grainlike seed can be subbed into almost any yeast- or quick-bread recipe (like pancakes or crepes). It's been linked to lowered risk of heart disease, and it's a potent source of the antioxidant rutin. SWAP IT FOR: wheat flour
5. Whole Oats
The best breakfast grain. Dozens of studies have shown that oats improve heart health, thanks mainly to its soluble-fiber beta-glucans, which keep bad cholesterol in check, control blood pressure, and boost the immune system. SWAP IT FOR: sugary cereals