Want to Live Longer? Eat More Whole Grains

Can you guess what the two leading causes of death in the United States are? Heart disease and cancer. Combined, they claim the lives of about 1.2 million people a year. But it doesn't have to be that way. While there isn't a 100 percent guarantee, both are largely preventable by making smart lifestyle choices, getting regular exercise, and eating a healthy diet.

But can your diet really make such a big difference that it will help you live longer and prevent heart disease and cancer? Researchers at Harvard University wanted to find out. They looked at 14 large studies that included almost 800,000 people. And they measured food choices and mortality linked to heart disease and cancer.

Here's what they found. People who ate the most whole grains were 16 percent less likely to die early than those who rarely ate whole grains. Whole grain eaters also cut their risk for dying from heart disease by 20 percent and cancer by 10 percent. How's that for motivation to improve your diet and eat more whole grains? It's a no-brainer, right?

So what foods contain whole grains that can protect your heart, help prevent cancer, and improve longevity? Brown rice, oatmeal, whole-grain cereal, and breads and pastas made from whole grains are good examples. Whole grains provide protective health benefits that help improve digestion, control cholesterol and triglycerides, regulate blood sugar levels, and support other systems in the body.

One of the easiest ways to add more whole grains to your diet is making a switch from white bread to whole grain bread, white rice to brown rice, refined-grain pasta to whole-grain pasta, and instant oatmeal to steel-cut oats. It's really not that hard to eat healthy when you take the time to recognize that your diet has a big impact on your overall health and longevity.