It’s Whole Grains Month, and although September is ending, the knowledge of how whole grains can impact physical and mental health is ongoing.
According to the Whole Grains Council website, whole grains can have many physical health benefits, such as “better weight maintenance,” reduced risk of type 2 diabetes, “healthier blood pressure levels,” “reduction of inflammatory disease risk,” and a reduced risk of heart disease.
And as studies show, good physical health and a healthy diet can promote positive mental health.
Cynthia Harriman, the director of Food and Nutrition Strategies at the Whole Grains Council, said in an email that there are a few studies linking positive mental health to whole grains.
For example, a study in October 2007 in the European Journal of Nutrition found that Japanese mothers who ate sprouted brown rice had “decreased scores of depression, anger-hostility and fatigue,” as well as a better functioning immune system.
There are other slightly indirect ways that whole grains can improve mental health as well.
“We know that whole grains are protective of cardiovascular health, something we usually associate with heart health,” Harriman said.
“But vascular health also strongly affects what happens in the brain, too, which could be one reason that whole grains benefit mental health. Just as our hearts function better when the circulatory system can carry more oxygen and nutrients to the heart, so also do our brains function better with healthy veins and arteries helped along by whole grains.”
Dr. Wendie Trubow, a board certified gynecologist and quality director at Visions HealthCare, said in an email that certain types of grains can benefit overall health for women.
“For people who are prone to inflammation, eating whole grains in lieu of processed grains may significantly improve mental health and overall physical health,” Trubow said. “Women who eat processed grains may be more likely to have heavy, painful menses, infertility or abdominal bloating.”
She said in general, people might not experience any major health benefits from eating whole grains alone though.