Whole grains contain all naturally occurring parts and nutrients of the entire grain or seed. Whole grains contain 100% of the original kernel, including the bran, germ, and endosperm. Processed grains may have the bran and or germ removed, leaving just the endosperm for use. These grains usually undergo a process of enriching, where nutrients that were lost due to removal of the bran and germ, are added back into the grain to increase its nutritional content.
Parts of the grain:
- Bran: Fiber, B-vitamins, anti-oxidants
- Germ: B-vitamins, minerals, protein, healthy oils
- Endosperm: Starch, protein, vitamins, minerals
Why are whole grains processed?
- Shorter cooking time
- Longer shelf life
Why is it important to eat whole grains?
- When the bran and germ are removed from a whole grain, you are missing out big time on fiber and vital nutrients.
- Processed grains usually contain just the endosperm, which provides carbohydrates with no fiber. This could increase the rate at which sugar is absorbed by the body, resulting in a higher risk for diabetes and obesity.
- Eating whole grains promote the growth of healthy bacteria in the colon.
- Many whole grains are naturally rich in folate, which helps reduce neural tube defects during fetal development.
- Research has shown that whole grains vs. processed grains significantly reduce the risk for stroke, diabetes, heart disease, and obesity. More recent studies have shown whole grains to be correlated with reduced risk of asthma, reduction of inflammatory disease risk, lower risk of colon cancer, and healthier blood pressure levels.
How do I shop for 100% whole grains?
- Look for the term “whole grain” on the label AND on the ingredient list.
- The terms “whole grain” or “whole” will usually be followed by the type of grain. Examples include whole wheat flour, which is completely different from 100% wheat flour.
- Don’t be fooled! Look out for “multigrain” and “organic” labels on packages. These products are not necessarily made from whole grains, and may in fact be made with little or no whole grains.
- Always look at the ingredient list. Below is a guide to help you identify which products are likely to be 100% whole grain.
- Whole Grain (name of grain)
- Whole Wheat
- Stoneground Whole (name of grain)
- Brown Rice
- Oats, Oatmeal
- Corn Tortillas
- Wild Rice
- Durum Wheat
- Multigrain (usually describes a mix of whole grains and refined grains)
- Enriched Flour
- Wheat Germ
In a nutshell, aim to eat whole grains. Next time you go to the supermarket, be more mindful of labels and don’t fall into the “multi-grain” and “organic” traps!