You’ve probably heard of grains and whole grains but do you know what makes them different? Grains, which include wheat, barley, oats, cornmeal, rice, and other cereal grains are further divided into 2 groups: whole grain (e.g., whole wheat bread, oatmeal) and refined grains (e.g., white bread, pretzels). Whole grains contain the bran, germ, and endosperm of the grain kernel, whereas the bran and germ are removed in refined grains.
Whole Grain Nutrition
Whole grains are rich in dietary fiber, which may help prevent heart disease, obesity, type II diabetes and bowel dysfunction. In addition, fiber can also help provide a sense of fullness with fewer calories. Whole grains also contain some iron, which carries oxygen to the blood. If iron intake is inadequate, anemia may occur, which is common in young women. The type of iron in whole grains is better absorbed with vitamin C, so try pairing whole grains with foods high in vitamin C. Whole grains also are full of B vitamins that help your body get the energy it needs from food that you eat.
The removal of the bran and germ in refined grains removes the dietary fiber, iron, and B vitamins. Although, some B vitamins and iron are added back in “enriched” refined grain products. MyPlate recommends that at least half of your grains are whole grains, and when choosing refined grain products, look for “enriched.”
Try the following tips to increase your whole grain intake:
· Substitute whole grain breads and pastas for white, and substitute brown rice for white.
· When baking, substitute whole wheat flour for 1/3 of the portion of white flour. This will add whole grain without compromising the texture of the product.
· Snack on 100% whole grain crackers instead of refined grain crackers or chips.
· Choose whole grain cereals, like oatmeal, instead of sugary, more refined cereals. Add an orange or a glass of orange juice for vitamin C.
· Look for food products that are high in fiber. 10-19% of the daily value (DV) is good, while 20% or more is excellent.
· Add barley or brown rice to soups and stews.
· Pair broccoli or other vegetables high in vitamin C with brown rice.
For more information about whole grains, visit MyPlate (http://www.choosemyplate.gov/food-groups/grains.html).
For more whole grain recipes, visit the Whole Grains Council (http://wholegrainscouncil.org/recipes).
Written by Danica Pelzel, Dietetic Intern Fontbonne University
Reviewed by Connie Diekman, M.Ed., RD, CSSD, LD, FADA
Nutrition Communications Consultant