Oatmeal is considered a necessary evil. People know it’s good for them (albeit many don’t know why), but due to it’s blandness it tends to rank low on their personal list of favorite breakfast meals. Eating oatmeal with fruit, however, not only makes the breakfast staple more palatable, it may also be the secret to a longer life. New research published in the American Heart Association's (AHA) journal Circulation suggests eating at least three servings of whole grains daily could lower the risk of early death, which may prompt some people to get over their aversion to oatmeal.

Whole grain foods, such as whole wheat, oats, and brown rice, are considered healthy because they contain fiber, a substance that can help reduce the risk of heart disease and diabetes. In addition to promoting the movement of waste through the digestive system, it also keeps food in the stomach longer, so people feel full and satisfied without consuming a lot of extra calories, according to the AHA. Dietary fiber also helps improve blood cholesterol levels, and lower the risk of stroke and obesity.

The researchers conducted a meta-analysis review of 12 studies. These included those published through to February 2016, as well as unpublished results from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) III, conducted rom 1988 to 1994. Combined, the studies involved more than 786,000 people.

The data showed that for every 16-gram serving of whole grains there was a 7 percent decreased risk in early death, a 9 percent decline in cardiovascular disease-related deaths, and a 5 percent decline in cancer-related deaths. What’s more, every additional serving of whole grains further lowered this risk. Researchers found that three servings of whole grains was associated with a 20 percent reduced risk of all-cause death, 25 percent reduced risk of cardiovascular deaths, and 14 percent decline in cancer-related deaths.

"Previous studies have suggested an association with consumption of whole grains and reduced risk of developing a multitude of chronic diseases that are among the top causes of deaths, although data linking whole grain intake and mortality were less consistent," said Dr. Qi Sun, senior author of the study and assistant professor at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, in a statement. "These findings lend further support to the U.S. government's current Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which suggest higher consumption of whole grains to facilitate disease prevention."

Dietary guidelines around the world have recommended whole grains as an essential part of a healthy diet, yet, according to the analysis, people aren’t consuming enough of them. A 2014 study found that only 3 percent of kids and 8 percent of adults ate the recommended three servings or more of whole grains each day.

This isn't the first time whole grains have been linked to a reduced death risk, a study released last year found that a diet high in whole grains and fiber can lower the risk of early death. According to the AHA, whole grains provide many nutrients, such as fiber, B vitamins, and minerals, which are removed during the refining process. However, there is such a thing as having too much. Whole grain foods are high in fiber and consuming too much of this substance can lead to diarrhea, intestinal gas, and blockage.

Source: Zong G, Gao A, Hu F. Whole Grain Intake and Mortality From All Causes, Cardiovascular Disease, and Cancer. Circulation. 2016.