Incorporating whole grains into your meals

Why should you choose whole grains? 

Consuming whole grains may reduce the risk of:

1. Heart disease

2. Diabetes

3. Gastrointestinal cancers (colon, rectum, and small intestine)

Whole grains also can help you maintain a healthy body weight. Whole grains contain fiber, which reduces constipation, aids in reducing blood cholesterol levels and in managing blood glucose, and keeps you full longer.

How do whole grains differ from refined grains?

Grains are the seeds of grasses. Whole grains are grains that have all parts of the kernel.

• Bran: outer portion of the grain containing fiber, B vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals

• Germ: small, inner portion of the grain containing B vitamins and vitamin E, antioxidants, phytochemicals, and minerals

• Endosperm: the starchy inner portion of the grain containing carbohydrates, protein, and B vitamins

Whole grains differ from refined grains due to processing. Refined grains contain only the endosperm. Because the bran and germ are removed in refined grains, the amount of protein, fiber, and other important nutrients are reduced. Often, refined grains are “enriched,” meaning the lost nutrients are added back, but usually not to the same level as found in the original whole grain kernel.

It’s important to remember that not all foods that contain fiber are whole grain foods.

How many whole grains should I eat daily?

Start by replacing some of your refined grains with a whole grain alternative.

• 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that half of your grains be whole grains (3 servings daily).

• 1 serving of whole grains = 16g whole grains

Examples of a serving of whole grains include: 1 slice of whole wheat bread, 1 cup cold cereal, ½ cup cooked cereal, 5 whole wheat crackers, 3 cups of popcorn, ½ cup cooked

How do I identify a whole grain food?

Three steps to three servings of whole grains:

1. Front of package - Check the front of the package for key terms such as “100% whole grain,” “whole oats,” “made with whole wheat.”

2. Ingredients — Read the list of ingredients; one of the first three should contain key terms such as “100% whole wheat,” “stone ground whole wheat,” “whole rye flour,” “whole oats,” “whole wheat flour,” “brown rice,” or “wheat berries.”

3. Extra claims and logos — Examine the other panels for extra whole grain health claims or whole grain stamps/symbols that will support your decision.

If the food item is qualified to use the FDA-approved health claim (as quoted above), then that product must contain 51 percent or more of whole grain ingredients.

Types of whole grain stamps:

1. Basic “whole grain” stamp - The product contains at least 8 grams (a half serving) of whole grains, but refined grains also may be included.

2. “100% whole grain” stamp - All of the grain ingredients are whole grain, and it must contain a minimum of 16 grams (1 serving) of whole grains.

Not all foods made with whole grains contain the Whole Grains Council stamp on the package due to an extra expense required on behalf of the manufacturer. It is important to pay extra attention to the ingredients list.