Most of us know we should be eating more whole grains, however, do you know if the grains you are eating are truly “whole” grains? Health benefits of whole grains include lowering your risk of some chronic diseases like diabetes, heart disease, and some cancers. Because they are high in fiber, they keep you feeling full longer, which helps with weight management, aids in GI function, and helps keep blood glucose levels in goal. So let’s find out what makes a grain “whole” and make sure you are taking full advantage of these benefits.
When grains grow in the field, they have 3 edible parts: the outer bran layer (rich in fiber and B vitamins), the endosperm (which contains carbohydrates, protein, and B vitamins), and the germ (rich in antioxidants, unsaturated fat, vitamin E and some B vitamins). If the grain consists of all three parts, it is considered a whole grain. If the bran and germ are removed, it is considered a refined grain, which removes out about two-thirds of the original nutrients. Most times, these refined grains are then enriched (the nutrients are added back) but this process cannot return all of the original nutrients.
One common whole grain food source most are familiar with is whole wheat or whole grain bread. However, are you sure your bread is actually a “whole” grain? There are a lot of different brands and types of bread out there so to be sure, look at the ingredient list. If the first item listed states whole wheat, whole oat, whole rye, etc. it is considered a whole grain source. Be careful of products that state enriched white or wheat flour as it likely is not a whole grain.
How many whole grains does the typical adult need in a day? The goal according to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans is to make half of your grains for the day from whole grain sources. This equates to three or more one-ounce servings per day. Examples of a one ounce serving are one slice of whole grain bread, ½ cup of cooked brown rice, ½ cup of whole grain pasta, or ¾ to 1 cup of ready-to-eat whole grain cereal. Some little lesser known sources of whole grains include: brown rice, whole wheat flour, oats, popcorn, rye bread, quinoa, barley, and millet, to name a few.
Try some whole grain bread, muffins, or cereal for breakfast. For lunch, have beef barley soup and whole-grain crackers or a cold whole-wheat pasta salad. To include whole grains at dinner, try quinoa with chicken and veggies or add some brown rice for a side dish. If you’re craving a snack, try a whole grain granola bar, popcorn, or some whole grain pretzels. Whatever you do, aim for half of your grains to be from whole grain to reap the health benefits!
For more information on whole grains visit the Whole Grains Council at http://www.wholegrainscouncil.org.