The whole grain heart health connections

A close up of red heart shaped bowl filled with rolled oats.
A bowl of whole-grain oatmeal.

Brianne Curtis, Communications Coordinator with Good in Every Grain, farms with her family growing corn, soybeans and wheat outside of Guelph, Ontario.

Cardiovascular (heart) disease refers to what is a group of conditions that affect the structure and functions of the heart and have many root causes. High blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, and obesity are just some conditions that can lead to heart disease.

Healthy lifestyle choices like quitting smoking, eating a healthy and balanced diet, getting enough sleep, exercising regularly, and limiting alcohol intake can all help manage heart health.

Most people wouldn’t realize this, but the inclusion of grains in their diets is consistently associated with improved heart health. So one simple step that people can all take now is finding healthy ways to include more grains into daily diets.

Why whole grains

Whole-grain foods like barley, oats, soybeans and wheat contain all the essential parts of the seeds (the bran, the germ and endosperm) and all the essential nutrients. Whole grains are also an excellent source of fibre which can help to lower LDL cholesterol (often referred to as the “bad” or “unhealthy” cholesterol).

Spinach and mushroom whole wheat pasta topped with freshly grated parmeson cheese in a brown bowl, on a wooden table.
Spinach and mushroom whole wheat pasta topped with freshly grated parmeson cheese in a brown bowl, on a wooden table.
Spinach and Mushroom Whole Wheat Pasta

According to Health Canada, Canadian women need 25 grams of fibre per day and men need 38 grams of fibre per day. Most Canadians are only getting about half that much. The soluble fibre found in grains such as oats and barley also helps to manage blood sugar which is important for lowering the risk of heart disease, stroke, obesity and event type 2 diabetes. Whole grains such as oats, barley and wheat berries are naturally free of sodium which can be helpful in managing blood pressure, and also help to keep you feeling full longer, which can help in achieving and maintaining a healthy body weight — which in turn helps to lower the risk of heart disease.

Tips to include whole grains in your diet:

You can increase the number of whole grains in a heart-healthy diet by making simple substitutions for

refined grain products. When reading labels, use the % Daily Value (% DV) in the Nutrition Facts table. The guidance from Health Canada is that 5% DV or less is a little and 15% DV or more is a lot for all nutrients.

● Oatmeal for breakfast

● Try whole-grain bread, buns, rolls, tortillas and pasta

● Mix whole-grain cereal with your regular cereal to gradually increase the number of whole grains you’re consuming.

● Look for whole grains listed under the ingredient lists on food products.

● Add whole barley or rice into soups, stews and salads.

● Pregnant women should consider adding enriched flour products to their diets so that they benefit from the folates that are added into the flour, which help reduce the chances of certain birth defects — look for breads, flatbreads, and cereals to get your needed folates!

Visit for easy to make whole grain recipes.

Greek Style Wheat Berry and Lentil Salad

From the farmers in the fields to the wholesome food on tables across Ontario — there’s Good in Every Grain #ONgrains