Looking for a smart way to dramatically lower your risk of developing a number of chronic and potentially life–threatening diseases, including heart problems, stroke, Type 2 diabetes and obesity? Well, maybe it's time you

took a look at the benefits of whole grains.

Healthy adults should get between six and eight servings of grains each day, according to Canada's Food Guide. At least half of those should be whole grains from a wide variety of sources, including oats, barley, quinoa and brown rice.

Why whole grains? Well, the numbers may surprise you. According to the Whole Grains Council, research shows that a diet rich in these foods can lower the risk of stroke by 30% to 35%; Type 2 diabetes by between 21% and 30%; and heart disease by 25% to 28%. A no–brainer, right?

“Many people still don't get enough whole grains,” says registered dietitian Samara Felesky–Hunt, one of Canada's leading nutrition experts. “In these busy times, we're often eating on the run and depriving ourselves of the

essential nutrients we need to stay strong and healthy. Your body needs whole grains.”

So how do you know if you're reaping the benefits of real whole grain? To start, check food labels for the Whole Grains Council stamp. (More information and a list of full grains can be found at www.wholegrainscouncil.org.)

Another tip that Felesky–Hunt recommends to vary your intake is by incorporating products such as Ryza, a low–fat rice beverage with a naturally sweet, nutty taste, into your diet. Made right here in Canada from non–genetically modified, whole–grain, North American brown rice, just a single glass has 16 grams of whole grains–an entire serving–in delicious, drinkable form. Bonus points: ryza is fortified with calcium, vitamin D, vitamin A, vitamin B2 and vitamin B12, while low in sodium.

Felesky–Hunt recommends substituting Ryza for milk in everything from your morning coffee to your recipes. And for finicky little ones, it's a big hit when whipped in a blender as a smoothie with fresh or frozen berries and

crushed ice.

“It's never too late to begin eating well,” says Felesky–Hunt. “But it's especially important to start good eating habits early––especially if you want your kids to grow to live long, healthy lives. Who doesn't want that?”