Think “whole grain” when eating and shopping

Whole grains are delicious, nutritious and provide a variety of flavors which adds up to a healthy diet and pure eating enjoyment!

Whole grains continue to make headlines. Government guidelines and nutritionists tell us to eat more of them. Supermarket shelves have lots of products that say they contain whole grains. So why is there so much attention on whole grains?

The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans and MyPlate put the spotlight on these foods because research shows that whole grains offer important health benefits – they can reduce our risk of heart disease, diabetes, cancer and even help with weight control. Health experts recommend we make half our grains whole – the exact amount needed depends on a person’s age, sex and level of physical activity.

What exactly is a whole grain? The part of the grain that farmers harvest is called the kernel. The kernel has three parts: the germ, the bran (or outer hull) and the endosperm.

To be labeled “whole grain,” a food must contain all three parts in the same proportion as the original grain kernel. Favorite grains that qualify as whole grains are wheat, oats, corn and cornmeal, popcorn, brown and wild rice, barley and rye.

You can tell a food is made of whole grain by carefully checking the ingredient list on the food label. The first ingredient listed is present in the greatest amount by weight. So look for the first ingredient to be whole wheat, whole oats, whole rye or whole grain barley. Don’t be fooled by healthy-sounding words like “enriched,” “wheat flour,” “cracked wheat,” “multi-grain,” “stone-ground,” “bran” or “seven-grain.” If it doesn’t say “whole grain” or “whole wheat,” it’s not the real thing.

Here are some tasty ways to get more servings of whole grains into your diet:

  • Always keep some whole grain cereal handy for quick breakfasts.
  • Mix wild or brown rice or barley in soups and casseroles.
  • Make hearty sandwiches with whole grain bread or rolls.
  • Choose whole grain pita bread or tortillas to make flavorful wraps.
  • If whole wheat past seems too heavy, try one of the whole-wheat blend pastas.
  • Substitute whole wheat flour for part of the white flour in favorite recipes.

For more information about whole grain foods, check out the Whole Grains Council and MyPlate websites.

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