Eating wholegrain foods can reduce risk of heart disease by up to 30 per cent, a new study has found.
The Heart Foundation reviewed the links between grain intake and heart health by combining data from multiple studies.
The review revealed wholegrains, particularly oats and barley, were associated with small improvements in cholesterol, blood pressure, body weight, and lower risk of type 2 diabetes by 20 to 32 per cent.
However, it also showed not all grains were equal but unrefined whole grains like oats, barley and brown rice were best for the body.
Some wholegrain products like crackers and breakfast cereals could still contain a lot of sugar, salt and saturated fat. The closer the product was to the original grain found in nature, the healthier it was.
Lily Henderson, Heart Foundation National Nutrition Advisor, said while wholegrains, with their natural fibre structure still intact were best, there was not one "single" food that improved heart health, it comes down to overall diet.
"If you base your meals around plenty of vegetables, fruit, legumes, wholegrains, nuts, seeds and oily fish, then the nutrients will look after themselves," Henderson said.
She said for optimal heart health wholegrains were best eaten in place of refined grains like white bread and pasta.
"If you choose to eat grain foods, aim for three servings of wholegrains every day. A serving is roughly half a cup of cooked porridge, one slice of wholegrain bread or a third of a cup of cooked brown rice."
She also suggested focusing on the quality of wholegrain foods that make it into the supermarket trolley and advised to check food labels in the supermarket.
"Look for words like whole wheat, wholegrain, wholemeal, multigrain, oats, near the beginning of the ingredients list.
"There are obvious health benefits to eating wholegrains, however most of us would benefit from eating more vegetables and legumes too. We encourage swapping refined grains like white bread and pasta to different vegetables too."
Heart Foundation tips for simple, affordable swaps from refined grains to whole grains include switching from:
• Rice bubbles to oats
• White bread to wholegrain bread
• White rice to brown rice, quinoa or barley
• Water crackers to wholegrain crackers
• White flour to wholegrain flours such as wholemeal flour
• White bread roll to a multigrain bread roll
• Meal suggestions for those wanting to add more wholegrains into their diet include:
Breakfast: porridge, Bircher muesli or toasted wholegrain bread.
Lunch: wholemeal salad wrap or soup with a wholegrain bread roll.
Snacks: wholegrain crackers or crisp bread with hummus.
Dinner: stir-fry with buckwheat noodles; add barley to soups, casseroles or risotto; make salads with different grains like brown rice, wholemeal pasta or quinoa.