The Whole Truth About Grains

Guest blogger Vanessa Morley is a registered dietetic technician and writes health blogs for Everyday Health.

One of the many nutrition claims that seems to stay constant, in an ever changing field, is whole grains are better than refined grains. Even though you may have heard this may times, you may not be sure why whole grain products are so important and why they seem to be popping up everywhere lately! Compared to only a few years ago, whole grain options are offered in a variety of products from baked goods, pasta, snacks, cereals, and ready-to-eat entrees. Here are some facts about whole grains, including what they are, how to buy the right whole grain products and how to incorporate them into your diet every day.

What is a Whole Grain?

A whole grain contains three parts, the bran, germ and endosperm, which all hold different nutrients. The bran is the outer layer of the grain and it contains the most fiber than any other part, as well as important minerals. The germ is the embryo of the grain and is rich in fat and contains protein, vitamins including B and E, and minerals. The endosperm is the biggest part of the grain and contains starch, which is the basis of all refined flours. To make refined grains the factories strip the grain of the bran and germ and mill the endosperm into a fine powder, therefore in most white flours the important nutrients that are usually found in whole grains is gone.

Buying Whole Grains

Many grains are considered whole grains including barley, buckwheat, corn, oats, quinoa, brown or colored rice (not white), rye, bulgur, wheat, wild rice and many more. When you are buying whole grains make sure to look at the ingredient list, the first ingredient on the list should say 100% whole grain (name of specific grain) or it will just say brown rice or oats, for example. Some products will also have a whole grain stamp, which is from the Whole Grain Counsel; this stamp will tell you what percentage of the product contains whole grains. If the ingredient list says wheat, flour or multigrain it might be a whole grain product, but most likely not. If a product does contain whole grains the food company will most likely want to market it, so if it doesn’t say whole grains, it most likely isn’t. Ingredients that aren’t whole grains include enriched flour, wheat germ and bran. These items only contain one part of the grain instead of the whole grain.

Eating Whole Grains Everyday

Making the switch from white or multigrain bread to whole grain bread is probably the easiest way to start eating whole grains. Other ways to incorporate whole grains into your diet is to switch white rice to brown or wild rice or try adding quinoa to your meals. Quinoa is a wonderful addition to any meal; it is considered a super-food because it has a high protein content and it is a great source of fiber.

Remember whole grains are the most nutritious and will help keep you healthy!

Kathleen Chu
Outreach Director
Everyday Health
345 Hudson Street, 16th Floor
New York, New York 10014

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