Whole Grains. What’s the Whole Story?
What are whole grains?
Whole grain means just that – the complete grain including the bran, germ and endosperm which contributes a number of disease‐fighting phytochemicals, antioxidants, and is an important source of fiber, B vitamins, vitamin E, magnesium and iron. Refined or “white” grains have been milled to remove the bran and the germ which removes some of those important nutrients.
Health benefits of whole grains
Eating a variety of whole grains every day can reduce your risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and certain types of cancer. Whole grains also have a role in weight control due to their high fiber content.
Whole Grains and Fiber
Whole grains and fiber are not the same thing. Whole grains can come from many types of grains including wheat, oats, rice, barley, and quinoa; and their fiber content varies depending on the proportions of bran, germ, and endosperm.
- Some whole grain foods, such as brown rice, may not be a good source of fiber yet still contain the important health benefits in whole grains.
- Likewise, there are some foods that are an excellent source of fiber, such as bran cereals, that do not contain whole grains.
It is important that we include both whole grains and fiber as part of a healthy and well‐balanced diet since both contain essential vitamins, minerals, and important nutrients for optimal health.
Finding Whole Grains
When looking for whole grain products, scan the ingredient list on the package when available. Look for the words “whole” plus the grain type such as “whole wheat” or “whole oats.”
Here are a few easy ways to get whole grains each day:
- Whole grain cereal for breakfast
- Sandwiches on whole grain bread
- Low‐fat popcorn or whole grain crackers with low fat cheese
When baking or cooking
- Substitute half the white flour for whole grain to make muffins, biscuits, pancakes or waffles. Or substitute 1/3 of the flour in a recipe with whole grain oats
- Prepare casseroles, meatloaf, or meatballs with whole grain breadcrumbs
- Use whole grains when making soups such as whole grain pasta or barley
- Prepare grain‐based side dishes with whole grains such as quinoa or wild rice.