Whole grains: how much do you need for lower cancer risk?

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AICR’s latest comprehensive update on colorectal cancer produced a delicious finding on how you can lower your risk for that disease. Simply swap out some refined grains, like white bread or white rice, for flavorful whole grain foods daily and you’ll create a more cancer-protective diet.

In the report, scientists found strong evidence, for the first time, that eating 90 grams (about 3 ounces) of whole grain foods daily reduces risk for colorectal cancer by 17 percent. Fewer amounts of whole grains provided some – but less – protection; greater amounts offered even more.

This may be due, the report says, to the many compounds in whole grain foods like fiber, vitamin E, selenium, lignans, phenols and others that have shown anti-cancer actions in lab studies.

I wrote about how to define a whole grain food a few weeks ago. Here’s how you can begin to chose more whole grain foods and eventually reach at least 90 grams or 3 ounces daily.

    1. An ounce of a whole grain food refers to cooked or prepared food, like rice, cooked grains, cold cereal or bread.
    2. Check serving size labels for bread and ready-to-eat cereals because bread slice sizes vary and an ounce of puffed cereal would be a larger measure than an ounce of granola cereal. (One ounce equals 28 grams.)
    3. Begin to substitute common whole grain foods like 100% whole wheat bread, brown rice and whole-grain pasta for white bread, white rice and white pasta.
    4. If you are new to whole grains, start by swapping out one refined grain a day and as that gets easier, make more and more swaps.

Here is one way to get your 3 ounces/90 grams of whole grain foods daily:

  • Breakfast: 1/2 cup cooked oatmeal (instant or microwave for convenience)
  • Snack: 3 cups popped popcorn
  • Dinner: Soup, stew or stir-fry with cooked brown rice (1/2 cup per serving)

How will you substitute whole grain foods for refined grains?

For more information on whole grains and ideas on delicious ways to eat them, check out the tips section in our Foods that Fight Cancer: Whole Grains.

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    Author: Alice RD

    Alice G. Bender, MS, RDN, is the Director of Nutrition Programs at AICR. She helps put the science of cancer prevention by providing tips and tools to choose nutritious and delicious foods. Alice has guided thousands of individuals to healthier lives through diet changes and choices.

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