By Jen Christensen, CNN
(CNN)Want to live longer? Have a piece of whole grain toast or oatmeal for breakfast, and then eat popcorn as a snack, and put some buckwheat in your pasta.
Not one but two new studies recently analyzed the wide variety of research published over the years on the benefits of whole grains and found that eating at least three servings a day could help you live longer.
One study, published in the BMJ, found that eating this number of whole grain servings each day can reduce your risk of heart disease, infectious diseases, diabetes, cancer and respiratory diseases. This came from data across 45 studies.
Another study in the latest edition of the American Heart Association’s journal Circulation found that with three servings of whole grains, you can lower your risk of premature death by almost 20%, compared with people who ate fewer or no servings of whole grains.
The research looked at studies totaling nearly 800,000 people and saw that people who ate this amount of whole grains regularly saw a 25% decline in cardiovascular deaths and 14% decrease in cancer.
Three servings of whole grains a day are what U.S. dietary guidelines suggest, but few Americans achieve this — maybe because whole grains get a bit of a bad rap.
“People do not necessarily regard whole grain as delicious, but you can find a number of good recipes online that make delicious meals using whole grains,” said Dr. Qi Sun, author of the Circulation study.
The Harvard assistant professor of nutrition said that even if you don’t want to give up your beloved white rice, you could make a mix of brown and white rice, alternate whole wheat bread with something else, spread a little quinoa or bran on your salad, or try your taco fillings on whole wheat tortillas.
There doesn’t have to be major change for this to work.
However, Sun cautions that you cannot expect to live longer if you eat popcorn that’s covered in butter and salt, with a side of soda.
“Unfortunately, no one single food is a magic bullet,” Qui said. “But our research does show that eating whole grain can help.”