Despite universal acceptance of the importance of whole grains in the diet, consumer knowledge of the benefits of whole grains and intake of these foods are low. This review summarizes the research supporting whole-grain consumption and gives practical suggestions about how to increase whole-grain intake. Whole-grain foods are valuable sources of nutrients that are lacking in the American diet, including dietary fiber, B vitamins, vitamin E, selenium, zinc, copper, and magnesium. Whole-grain foods also contain phytochemicals, such as phenolic compounds, that together with vitamins and minerals play important roles in disease prevention. The exact mechanisms linking whole grains to disease prevention are not known but may include gastrointestinal effects, antioxidant protection, and intake of phytoestrogens. Dietary intake studies indicate that consumption of whole grains is far less than the recommended intake of 3 servings a day, with an average daily intake of 1 or fewer servings a day. A new whole-grains health claim, allowed in July 1999 by the Food and Drug Administration, and inclusion of a whole-grain recommendation in the 2000 revision of the US Dietary Guidelines for Americans, should help increase whole-grain consumption.