I’m learning more and more about the importance of including whole grains in our diet.

A recently released study published in the Journal of Nutrition found that greater whole grain and lower refined grain intake was associated with healthier cardiometabolic heath risk factors.

A whole grain is a grain of any cereal or pseudocereal that contains the germ, endosperm and bran, in contrast to refined grains, which retain only the endosperm.

Whole grains are a source of carbohydrates, multiple nutrients and dietary fiber. Examples of whole grains are brown rice, whole-wheat bread, quinoa, farro, buckwheat and sorghum.

Observational studies have found that greater consumption of whole grains is associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease, obesity, Type 2 diabetes and hypertension.

Although several factors increase a person’s risk of these chronic, degenerative diseases, researchers found diet is especially important because it is a modifiable risk factor. One of the important strategies to lower cardiovascular risk is replacing refined grains (such as white rice, white flour, couscous and refined pasta) with whole grains.

To better understand the relationship between habitual consumption of whole grains and changes in cardiometabolic risk factors, Nicola McKeown, with the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University, and colleagues conducted a prospective study using data collected from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute Framingham Heart Study Offspring Cohort.

Approximately every four years, participants undergo standardized medical histories and physical examinations. Data from the fifth through ninth study examinations were included in these analyses.

The Harvard semiquantitative food frequency questionnaire was used to assess dietary intake, and a whole-grain database enabled researchers to quantify grams per day of whole grain consumption.

Refined grain consumption was based on servings per day of the following food items: refined cold ready-to-eat breakfast cereal, cooked breakfast cereal (not oatmeal), white bread, English muffins, bagels, muffins, biscuits, white rice, pasta, pancakes, waffles, crackers and pizza.

Cardiometabolic risk factors included waist circumference, systolic blood pressure, diastolic blood pressure, blood lipids and blood glucose.

Greater whole-grain intake was associated with smaller increases in waist circumference, fasting glucose concentration and systolic blood pressure per four-year interval. That association with waist circumference was strongest among females.

Although the observed association between whole-grain consumption and waist circumference was relatively small, even small gains in abdominal adiposity can impact disease risk.

Higher intake of whole grains was also associated with greater increases in HDL (good) cholesterol and declines in triglyceride concentrations, although results showed a complex relationship with waist circumference.

In contrast, higher refined-grain intake was prospectively associated with higher gains in abdominal adiposity and triglyceride concentrations.

The bottom line? Choose whole grains whenever you can. The effects can be impactful on your health and help reduce the risk and lessen the severity of cardiovascular disease.


Q: Why do onions make you cry?

A: The reason onions make us cry can be traced back to the soil. Onions are part of the genus Allium plant family, along with garlic, leeks and chives, and they absorb sulfur from the soil.

When an onion is cut, the cells are broken, releasing the contents inside. This allows chemicals that were previously separated by a cell membrane to combine with each other and with the air.

Enzymes and amino acid sulfoxide chemicals from inside the cells react to produce a volatile sulfur gas. This gas wafts up from the onion and reacts with the natural water in your eye to form sulfuric acid, which brings about the familiar stinging sensation.

Cooling the onion for a few minutes in the freezer helps as the enzymes are less reactive when they are cold. Cooking also lessens the activity of the enzyme.

Red Lentil and Chickpea Soup

The brisk fall mornings and evenings might have you dusting off the slow cooker and thinking about soup.

Here’s a Red Lentil and Chickpea Soup from Cooking Light: Soups & Stews that’s easy on the budget, full of flavor and packed with nutrients, including protein from the lentils and chickpeas.


  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • One 1-inch piece fresh ginger, grated
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt, divided
  • 2 teaspoons smoked paprika
  • 6 cups lower-sodium vegetable broth
  • One 1½ pound small butternut squash, cubed
  • One 15-ounce can unsalted chickpeas (garbanzo beans), drained and rinsed
  • One 14.5-ounce can no-salt-added diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 1 cup dried red lentils
  • Chopped fresh cilantro (optional)


Heat olive oil in large skillet over medium-high. Add onion, ginger and 1 teaspoon salt; cook, stirring often, until tender, about 5 minutes. Add paprika; cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 1 minute.

Transfer onion mixture to 6-quart slow cooker. Stir in broth, squash, chickpeas, tomatoes, lentils and remaining 2 teaspoons salt. Cover and cook on high until lentils are tender, 3-4 hours.

To serve, ladle soup into bowls and garnish with cilantro, if desired.


Servings: 6

Per serving: 290 calories, 13 grams protein, 51 grams carbohydrates, 4 grams fat (0 saturated), 10 grams fiber, 7 grams sugars (0 added), 722 milligrams sodium

Charlyn Fargo Ware is a registered dietitian with SIU School of Medicine in Springfield, Illinois, and the current president of the Illinois Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Contact her at charfarg@aol.com, and follow her on Twitter: @NutritionRd. The opinions expressed are her own.