What’s the fuss about whole grains?

Whole grains are an important part of a balance diet. So, what is the difference between a whole grain and a refined grain? What are some examples of whole grains?

Do you know the difference between a refined grain, an enriched grain and a whole grain? We often see these terms used on our bread and cereal boxes, and we hear these terms on television ads. Most Americans don’t have a problem eating enough grain servings in a day, but most grains consumed are refined grains.

A refined grain has been milled to remove the outer coating, called bran and germ layers from the grain. This process gives the grain a finer texture, but it removes the dietary fiber, iron, and most of the B vitamins from the grain. Once the grain has been refined, the manufacturer replaces the grain with the B vitamins and iron leaving out the dietary fiber. This leads to the term enriched.

A whole grain subsequently is the entire grain seed or the kernel. There are three parts to the kernel: the bran, the endosperm and the germ. If a grain is labeled as “cracked,” “crushed” or “flaked,” then these three parts have to be in the same relative proportions as the whole grain. Examples of whole grain ingredients include buckwheat, bulgur, millet, oatmeal, quinoa, rolled oats, brown or wild rice, whole grain barley, whole rye and whole wheat.

The most recent recommendation by the United States Department of Agriculture is for American’s to consume half of their grains from whole grain sources. Less than five percent of American’s consume the minimum recommendation of 3 ounces of whole grains per day. On average most people eat only 1 ounce of whole grains per day.

Whole grains provide many nutrients for the average American. Whole grains give us iron, magnesium, selenium, B vitamins and dietary fiber. To determine if a product has a whole grain ingredient one should read the ingredient label on the food package. The amount of whole grain in the food product is suggested by where it is listed in the ingredients. To be a significant source of whole grain, the whole grain should be listed first or second in the list. Or, a food that has at least 8 grams of whole grains is considered to be a good source of whole grains. When you go to the supermarket to buy your breads and cereals, an easy way to get more whole grains into your diet is to read the labels and choose the products with whole grains listed.

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