Whole Grain Goodness

Many popular diets condemn grains when grains are actually an essential component of nutritious eating. Grains are a main source of carbohydrates (along with vegetables, fruits, and dairy foods), which are the body’s gold standard of energy sources. In fact, brain and red blood cells rely solely on energy from carbohydrates (in the form of glucose) to function properly.

All grains (rice, wheat kernels, barley, oats, etc.) start out as whole grains with three layers: endosperm, germ, and bran. When whole grains are processed (such as to make 100% whole wheat flour) all three parts are left intact.

 The outer layers – the bran and germ – contain the fiber, B vitamins, minerals such as iron, and phytochemicals. These layers are often removed when grains are refined to make white flour and bread products and white rice, leaving only the carbohydrate-rich endosperm.

  • Whole grain foods are rich in complex carbohydrates, including dietary fiber, and contain important vitamins and minerals and other components that appear to play a role in keeping us healthy.
  • Whole-grain foods are important sources of both soluble and insoluble dietary fiber. Studies suggest that eating more soluble fiber may reduce blood cholesterol levels. Lower blood cholesterol levels may help reduce the risk of heart disease.
  • Insoluble dietary fiber keeps foods moving through your system, helping to prevent constipation. It may prevent gastrointestinal disorders and certain types of cancer.
  • Whole-grain foods are also important sources of antioxidant nutrients, including vitamin E and selenium. Antioxidant nutrients may help protect against diseases such as cancer, heart disease, cataracts and reduce some of the effects of aging. Whole-grain foods also supply minerals such as zinc, copper, iron and vitamins B6, A and E.

Enjoy at least 3 servings (ounces) of whole grain foods daily! (A minimum of 5-6 servings of total grains per day)

Color is not always an indicator of whole grain.
A loaf of bread may be a dark brown color or it may say “multi-grain” or “100% wheat” on the label; however, it may not actually be a 100% whole grain product.

How can I tell if a food is a whole grain?

  • Check out the ingredient list to see that a whole grain item is listed first. Look for “whole wheat,” “whole oats,” “brown rice” or the words “whole grain” in front of rye, barley, or corn. If the whole grain is listed first on the label, it means it is the largest ingredient by weight in the product.
  • Look for a “Whole Grain Stamp” on the product. There are 2 different stamps: basic and 100% whole grain.
  • The basic stamp signifies that the product contains at least 8 grams of whole grains per serving (but it also may contain refined grains), and the 100% stamp ensures that the product is entirely (100%) whole grain and it contains at least 16 grams of whole grains per serving.

Make small changes to include more whole grains. Try these grocery shopping tips to get you started:

  • Purchase whole grain snacks – fiber-filled air-popped popcorn or whole grain crackers.
  • Try oatmeal for breakfast – add some fruit, milk, and nuts for sweetness, protein, and more fiber.
  • Choose whole grain sandwich bread, hamburger buns, hot dogs buns or tortillas for sandwiches.
  • Make a stir-fry and substitute brown rice or quinoa for white rice.
  • Choose whole grain pasta for your favorite Italian dish.
  • When baking, try substituting whole wheat flour for half of the white flour in a recipe.

For more information visit:
ChooseMyPlate.gov – Grains
Whole Grains Council
Wheat Foods Council

1. What is a whole grain? The Whole Grains Council website. http://wholegrainscouncil.org/whole-grains-101/what-is-a-whole-grain ; Accessed December 15, 2014.

2. What counts as an ounce equivalent of grains. USDA Choosemyplate.gov website. http://www.choosemyplate.gov/food-groups/grains-counts.html# ; Accessed December 15, 2014.

3. Webb, D. The impact of whole grains on health. Today’s Dietitian. 2013; 15(5):44. http://www.todaysdietitian.com/newarchives/050113p44.shtml ; Accessed December 15, 2014.

4. Thalheimer, JC. A soluble fiber primer – Plus the top five foods that can lower LDL cholesterol. Today’s Dietitian. 2013; 15(12): 16. http://www.todaysdietitian.com/newarchives/120913p16.shtml ; Accessed December 15, 2014.