Harvard Heart Letter

Great grains, super seeds

Editor’s note: This year, we’re highlighting grains and seeds on this page. Starting in February, we’ll showcase a different grain or seed every month, with nutritional information and suggestions for adding these healthy foods into your diet. Here’s some general background about these plant-based foods and why they’re beneficial for cardiovascular health.

What, exactly, is a whole grain? Technically, they’re dry, hard seeds of plants. Some are from grasses known as cereal grains, such as wheat, rice, corn, and oats. Others are from plants in different botanical families, such as quinoa, amaranth, and buckwheat, known as pseudo grains or pseudo cereals. A whole grain is one that contains all three layers of the grain kernel: the bran, the endosperm, and the germ.

Edible or culinary seeds come from vegetables (such as pumpkins), flowers (such as sunflowers), or other crops grown for a variety of uses (such as flax or hemp).

Whole grains and seeds are excellent sources of complex carbohydrates (especially fiber), protein, healthy unsaturated fats, B vitamins, and several minerals. They’ve been linked to a wide range of health benefits, including lowering blood pressure, blood sugar, and blood cholesterol and reducing chronic inflammation.

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