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Why Seniors Should Eat Whole Grains for a Healthy Diet

Nutrition Bites

You may already know that grains are essential for a healthy diet, but have you ever wondered whether you’re eating the right ones? Whole grains are the complete package when it comes to improving your health, especially for seniors, which is why it’s important to start incorporating them into your daily diet.

What Are Whole Grains?

Whole grains contain three parts: the bran, the germ, and the endosperm. The bran and germ help keep your body healthy, your skin glowing and your hair shiny which is very important as we age. The endosperm contains carbs and proteins. Eating refined or highly processed food only provides your body with the benefits of the endosperm.

chef speaking to two senior women

Why Eat Whole Grains?

As you get older, you may feel a lack of energy. Whole grains are a natural energy booster since they contain vital sources of B-vitamins as well as numerous trace minerals like iron, magnesium, copper, and zinc. They are also rich in nutrients like fiber, which helps regulate healthy bowel movements as well as heal the gut. The list doesn’t end there. Here are some more benefits of consuming whole grains for seniors:

  • Can help reduce the risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes
  • Lowers cholesterol
  • Prevents certain cancers
  • Reduces inflammation
  • May help with weight management

How Do You Know If It’s Whole-Grain?

Check the nutritional value on the back of the packaging. Foods that are whole-grain will show higher nutritional content in vitamins, minerals, and fiber than refined grains. Whole-grain foods are also much denser in texture and have a shorter shelf life than processed grains. Common whole grain foods include:

  • Wheat
  • Corn
  • Brown Rice
  • Barley
  • Quinoa

Watch out for common phrases like multigrain, 100% wheat, cracked wheat, organic, pumpernickel, bran, and stone-ground. While these terms sound healthy, they don’t indicate the product is actually whole-grain.

Color is also not a reliable way to base whether a product is whole-grain. Molasses or other ingredients are often added to food to give it that nice brown color. Seniors should search for foods that are high in fiber and low in sugar to increase the chances of purchasing whole-grain products.

women eating breakfast

How Do You Incorporate Whole Grains Into Your Diet?

For those 55 or older, aim at making at least half of your daily grains whole grains by switching out highly processed foods with whole-grain variations. Examples of this include:

  • Swap out white bread and pasta with whole wheat bread or brown rice pasta.
  • Start your day with whole-grain cereals, oatmeal or even buckwheat pancakes instead of highly processed, sugary meals to fuel your body with the energy it needs for the day.
  • If you like snacking throughout the day, rye crackers or rice cakes are a great source of whole grains. Popcorn (yes, popcorn!) is also a yummy whole-grain snack.
  • Try substituting barley, quinoa, or brown rice for noodles in any vegetable soup for a healthy twist.

You can also combine whole-grain foods with refined grains you’re used to until your palate has adjusted to the whole grains. A good goal is to aim to make at least half of a day’s grains whole grains.

Start Eating Whole Grains At Independence Village

Here at Independence Village, we believe in creating healthy, delicious meals for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Begin experiencing the benefits of whole grains by scheduling a lunch or dinner tour at one of our Independence Village communities.

director of nutrition Kelley Cox

Kelley Cox, MS, RD, CSG is the director of Nutrition for Independence Village and StoryPoint. As part of the culinary team, Kelley ensures nutritional menu standards are met for all licensed neighborhoods and provides guidance to our chefs in developing healthy menu options for all residents.

Kelley holds a Bachelor of Science in dietetics and a Master of Science in human nutrition from Eastern Michigan University and has been a registered dietitian since 2010. She is a board-certified expert in gerontological nutrition.

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