Higher whole grain cereal intakes are associated with substantially lower risks of type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease, and hypertension. These reduced risks have been established in large prospective studies that now include millions of person-years of follow-up. We analyze the results of 11 major prospective studies to provide recommendations about whole grain consumption. The following review establishes the amount of whole grains that should ideally be consumed based on prospective evidence; defines the nature of whole grains; identifies that the whole grain evidence is robust and not due to confounding; and provides a detailed assessment of several potential mechanisms for the effect of whole grains on health. We draw the following conclusions. Firstly, to maintain health, 40 grams or more of whole grains should be consumed daily. This is about a bowl of whole grain breakfast cereal daily, but 80% of the population does not achieve this. Secondly, aleurone in bran is a critical grain component generally overlooked in favor of indigestible fiber. Live aleurone cells constitute 50% of millers' bran. They store minerals, protein, and the antioxidant ferulic acid, and are clearly more than just indigestible fiber. Finally, we suggest potential roles for magnesium, zinc, and ferulic acid in the development of chronic disease. If the results of prospective studies were applied to the life-style practices of modern societies there exists the potential for enormous personal health and public financial benefits.