From spaghetti squash burrito bowls and zucchini boats to pumpkin pie muffins and almond meal pancakes, we’re always looking for ways to get that delish carb experience while sticking to a healthy low-carb diet. While these plant- and nut-based meals are full of fiber, healthy fats and are great for those who avoid gluten, it turns out carbs may not be such the enemy we thought they were, and no-carb may be a huge health no-no.

whole grain breakfast

According to a new study by Harvard’s School of Public Health, avoiding grains altogether may not be as healthy as we once thought. The researchers found people who ate whole grains (around 70 grams per day) actually had a lower risk of mortality than those who ate little or no grains.

Specifically, those who ate whole grains had a 22 percent lower risk of overall mortality, 23 percent lower risk of heart disease and 20 percent lower risk of cancer. These findings are especially significant because they are the result of a meta-analysis, a combination of results from more than 786,000 people, 12 published studies and five years of data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.

According to Qi Sun, senior author of the study, whole grains are healthy because they contain bioactive compounds, chemicals that promote good health. They’re also high in fiber, which lowers cholesterol and helps us feel full.

If you’re going to up your grain intake, you’ll want to keep two things in mind: the type and amount. Sun recommends eating about one cup of whole grains each day, like oatmeal, quinoa, brown rice or whole grain tortillas. This means avoiding refined grains, such as white rice and bread, crackers, candy, cookies and sugary cereals, which raise your blood sugar and triglycerides (the amount of fat in your blood).

How to Choose a Good Grain

Organic Homemade Whole Wheat Bread

The next time you’re strolling through the grocery store, how can you be sure you’re choosing the right grains? Our friends at Prevention recommend these two tips:

1. Look for Fiber: Select whole grains with at least three grams of fiber per serving to ensure you’re getting the healthiest option.

2. Check the Label: Just because a loaf of bread is named “Seven Grains” doesn’t mean it’s healthy. To find the best option, always check the nutrition label to look for evidence of whole grains and plenty of fiber.

What’s your tastiest way to get more whole-grain in your diet? Tell us @BritandCo!