The term “whole grain” means that all three parts of the grain kernel (germ, bran and endosperm) are included. Refined grains usually have the bran and germ removed, leaving only the starchy endosperm. Brown rice is a whole grain, white rice is not. Other whole-grain foods include wheat breads, rolls, pasta and cereals; whole grain oat cereals such as oatmeal, popcorn, wild rice, tortilla and tortilla chips, corn, kasha (roasted buckwheat) and tabouleh (bulghur wheat).
Whole grains are rich in fiber, vitamins, minerals and hundreds of natural plant compounds, called phytochemicals, which protect cells from the types of damage that may lead to cancer. In addition research points to specific substances in whole grains that have been linked to lower cancer risk, including antioxidants, phenols, lignans (which is a kind of phytoestrogen) and saponins.
AICR's second expert report, Nutrition, Physical Activity, and the Prevention of Cancer: A Global Perspective, found probable evidence that foods containing dietary fiber, like whole grains, can decrease one’s risk of developing colorectal cancer.
Moreover, limiting energy dense foods and eating a predominantly plant-based diet rich in vegetables, fruits, whole grains and beans can help with weight maintenance and, in turn, may decrease your risk of developing cancer.
AICR has funded research on the following topics relating to whole grains and the cancer-fighting components they contain. Click each topic to search for relevant AICR-funded research studies performed to date.