The key when choosing grains is to select whole grains- those made from the entire kernel of the grain. And what better time to talk about these than Whole Grains Month, which happens every September!
- Bran – This outer layer surrounds the grain and protects it. It provides fiber, B-vitamins, and minerals
- Germ – This is where a lot of nutrients are stored, including antioxidants, Vitamin E, B-vitamins, and healthy fats.
- Endosperm – This is the largest part of the grain kernel and contains carbohydrates as well as protein.
Because all the parts of the grain kernel are used, we’re given an extra boost of fiber. Fiber is essential for a healthy digestive system – I always tell the kids I teach that “it helps us poop!” and hear the class break out in “ewwww!”. But it’s the truth, and it’s important that we get enough fiber each day for that reason. Fiber is important in other ways, too – for example, it helps regulate blood sugar better than when we eat foods lacking fiber. One type of fiber, soluble fiber, can also help to lower cholesterol.
A refined grain product is typically only made from the endosperm portion – so it provides carbohydrates, but lacks a lot of other nutrients. Some of these lost nutrients are added back in during processing (through enrichment and fortification) but not to the same nutritional profile of the original whole grain.
So how do you spot the whole grains? It (unfortunately) isn’t as simple as you might think! There are tons of breads out there that look like they should be whole grain – they’re a brown color – and some even say “wheat bread” or “multigrain” in the name of the product. But to truly identify if you’re eating a whole grain, you’ll need to flip the package over and take a look at the ingredient list. The very first ingredient should say “whole wheat,” “whole grain oat flour,” “brown rice,” or a similar term (for other types of grains) indicating it is the unrefined form. If it’s a multigrain product, look at the different types of grain in the label to see if they are all whole grains. If you see “enriched wheat flour” as the first ingredient, that’s just another term for white flour, aka a refined grain product.
Sometimes people look at the nutrition facts to check the amount of fiber, and purchase products based on this amount. This can be deceiving, though, since manufacturers have jumped on the fiber bandwagon and have been adding isolated fibers to foods. These boost the grams of fiber without adding whole grain, so they can be added to refined products to make them seem like a healthier choice. Scientifically, though, we’re not sure if these isolated fibers have the same impact as regular fiber on your body. Your best bet is to read the ingredients and select items that are truly a whole grain.
Want to experiment with some new whole grains, or stock up on your favorites? Would a $25 Bob’s Red Mill gift card help you with that?
Terms: You must be at least 18 years old to win this giveaway. Upon winning, we will contact you via email and you must reply with your mailing address within 3 days or we will choose another winner.