Grain foods play an important role in the human diet for several reasons:
- The complex carbohydrates in bread and other grain-based foods provide essential fuel the body needs.
- Consuming grain foods helps with weight maintenance. In fact, a recent study (July 2009) published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association shows that those who consume a medium-to-high percentage of carbohydrates in their diet have a reduced risk of obesity.
- Grain foods are a major source of iron, a key nutrient in the production and release of energy to the body.
- Enriched grains are the primary source of folic acid in Americans' diets and have been shown to reduce specific types of neural tube defects.
- Enriched grains provide our bodies with essential B vitamins (niacin, thiamine and riboflavin), which collectively help maintain a healthy nervous system and increase energy production, and which may help lower cholesterol.
- Whole grains are naturally low in fat.
- Whole grains contain important nutrients such as selenium, potassium and magnesium, which collectively may help boost immunity, lower blood pressure and prevent heart disease and some forms of cancer.
- Whole grains are a good source of fiber.
- Whole grains lower the risk of irritable bowel syndrome and diverticular disease.
How much you should eat each day depends on your age, gender, body size and activity level. The more active you are, the more you can eat. Packaged-food labels are based on an average person's need for 2,000 calories a day, which means consuming about six ounces of grain foods daily. It's important to note that children, women and older adults may only need 1,600 calories per day and should consume about five ounces of grain products. Conversely, teenage boys and very active men may require as many as 2,800 calories a day and could eat as many as 10 ounces of grain foods a day.