Last year, a Harvard University analysis found that people who eat more whole grains tend to live significantly longer lives.
This is no great surprise, given that whole grains appear to reduce the risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, obesity and stroke.
But eating whole grains should involve more than just swapping white bread for whole wheat, white rice for brown and ordinary pasta for the whole-wheat variety.
Try less familiar whole grains such as quinoa, wild rice, buckwheat, barley and millet. And go for the most colourful variety on the shelves — such as red quinoa — that contain more antioxidants.
There’s experimental evidence to suggest pigmented rice — red, purple or black — not only has five times more antioxidants than brown, but acts against allergies and has anti-cancer effects.
How can you tell if something’s whole grain? Sadly, it’s not always evident, but it’s easy to learn how.
In the supermarket, anything labelled with the words multigrain, stone-ground, cracked wheat, seven-grain or bran is usually not a whole grain. They’re trying to distract you from the fact they are using refined grains.
Use the Five-to-One rule. Look at the nutrition facts label on the package and see if the ratio of grams of carbohydrates to grams of dietary fibre is five or less.
For example, let’s take 100 per cent whole-wheat Wonder Bread, which has 30g of carbohydrates and 3g of fibre. Thirty divided by three is ten. Well, ten is more than five, so the whole-wheat Wonder Bread goes back on the shelf.
Compare that with a sprouted-grain bread that has 15g of carbohydrates and 3g of fibre. No problem — it passes the test.