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Great grains

Nothing beats a hearty bran muffin or fresh-baked whole-wheat bread on a chilly winter day. These whole-grain foods taste great and provide you with many important nutrients, especially fiber, which can help lower cholesterol, reduce the risk of heart disease and digestive disorders, control blood sugar and reduce constipation.

Men need 30 to 38 grams of fiber a day; women should get 21 to 25, but many of us don’t even come close to meeting those recommendations. To boost your intake, look for the word “whole,” as in, “whole-wheat flour,” near the top of the ingredients list when shopping for bread, pasta and cereal. But increase the amount of fiber in your diet slowly or you may pay the price with gas, bloating and cramping.

Of course, you can also tie on an apron and create this whole-grain masterpiece at home:

Whole-wheat apricot bread

vegetable oil spray
1 cup chopped dried apricots
⅔ cup boiling water
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 cup whole-wheat flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
½ cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda
½ cup finely chopped walnuts, dry-roasted
½ cup fat-free evaporated milk
egg substitute equivalent to 1 egg or 1 egg, slightly beaten
¼ cup unsweetened applesauce

  • Preheat oven to 350° F. Lightly spray a 10 × 5 × 3-inch loaf pan with vegetable oil spray. Put apricots in a large shallow bowl. Add boiling water and oil. Let cool for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • In a large bowl, stir together the whole-wheat flour, all-purpose flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and nuts.
  • In a small bowl, whisk together the remaining ingredients. Add to the apricot mixture and stir until well blended.
  • Add the apricot mixture all at once to the flour mixture. Stir until the dry ingredients are just moistened, then stir 10 strokes. Pour into the loaf pan.
  • Bake for 1 hour, or until a cake tester or toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove from the pan and let cool thoroughly on a cooling rack (about 1 hour) before slicing.

Makes 16 servings. Per serving: 142 calories, 4 g fat (0 g saturated), 0 mg cholesterol, 99 mg sodium, 25 g carbohydrates, 2 g fiber, 4 g protein

Reproduced with permission from The New American Heart Association Cookbook, © 2001, Clarkson Potter/Publishers, a division of Random House, Inc., New York. Available from booksellers everywhere.