whole grains healthy diet

Whole Grains

What Are Whole Grains?

Whole grains, including foods made from them, comprise the entire grain seed (kernel). The kernel consists of three parts: the bran, the germ, and the endosperm. If the kernel has been cracked, crushed, or flaked, then for it to retain the name “whole grain”, it must retain almost the same relative proportions of bran, germ, and endosperm as the original grain.

Grain Processing Removes Nutrients

Usually, during the grain-refining process, most of the bran and some of the germ is removed, resulting in the loss of dietary fiber, vitamins, minerals, lignans, phytoestrogens, phenolic compounds, and phytic acid.

Some Refined Grains Are Enriched/Fortified With Micronutrients

Some grain processors add bran to grain products to increase the dietary fiber content. In addition, most refined grains are enriched before being further processed into food. Some refined grain products are required by law to be fortified with folate, as well as thiamin (vitamin B1), riboflavin (vitamin B2), niacin (vitamin B3), and iron. Many whole-grain, ready-to-eat breakfast cereals are fortified with folate.

Whole Grains Have Low Glycemic Index (GI) Value

Whole grains have a low GI rating. This means they are converted slowly into blood glucose, and do not cause “sugar spikes” (sudden rises in blood glucose levels). By contrast, refined carbs, especially white flour foods, typically have high-GI values are are associated with blood glucose problems and insulin disorders. For more information, see Glycemic Index (GI) Diet Guide.

How To Identify Whole Grain Foods

Whole grain foods are not identifiable by color – you must read the food label. For information about the ingredients in whole-grain products, read the ingredient list on the food label. The words “whole” or “whole grain” will appear before the grain ingredient’s name. And the whole grain should be the first ingredient listed. The Food and Drug Administration requires foods that bear the whole-grain health claim to (1) contain 51 percent or more whole-grain ingredients by weight per reference amount and (2) be low in fat.

Types of Whole Grain Products

Whole grains that are available in the United States include: whole wheat, whole oats/oatmeal, whole-grain corn, popcorn, brown rice, whole rye, whole-grain barley, wild rice, buckwheat, triticale, bulgur (cracked wheat), millet, quinoa and sorghum.

How To Add Whole Grains To Your Diet

  • If you enjoy hot cereals, eat old-fashioned or steel-cut oats. If you prefer cold cereal, look for one that lists whole wheat, oats, barley, or other grain first on the ingredient list.
  • Eat whole-grain breads for lunch or snacks. Check the label to make sure that whole wheat or other whole grain is the first ingredient listed.
  • Eat brown rice or even “newer” grains like bulgur, wheat berries, millet, or hulled barley with your dinner.
  • Choose different varieties of whole wheat pasta. If whole-grain pasta is too chewy for you, choose pastas made with half whole-wheat flour and half white flour.