What Makes a Food Whole?
The Whole Truth on Whole GrainsREAD MORE
Grains in particular have undergone the loss of nutrients through processing and refinement. Even at the dawn of agriculture, most grains had to be at least minimally processed to be edible. Processing grain to make flour also made it easier to store. Flour was often sifted to remove pieces of bran. This took time and effort, which eventually made white bread a status symbol. In the modern era of mass production and wide distribution, refining flour to remove the bran and oil-rich germ was also done to reduce spoilage and increase shelf life.
What is a Whole Grain?
Any grain can be considered a whole grain. That’s as true for common grains such as corn, rice, wheat or barley as it is for more exotic grains such as millet, quinoa, wild rice or buckwheat. To be considered a whole grain food, the product must be made from the entire grain seed. Sounds simple. But if the grain (or kernel) has been cracked, crushed, ground or flaked in the course of processing, it must still retain the same relative proportions of bran, germ, and endosperm as the original grain in order to be called whole grain.
Shoppers may find it confusing to see labels that say “whole grain” alongside labels that say “multi-grain.” The two phrases are not synonymous. “Multi-grain” simply means that more than one type of grain was used in the food; the different grains could be refined, whole or a mix of both.
Why Eat Whole Grains?
The days when coarse, whole grain breads are looked down on as peasant fare are over; instead, whole grain products often sell at a premium. Today researchers believe that whole grains are packed with health benefits; eating whole grains has been associated with less abdominal fat; lower blood pressure; lower cholesterol; and a reduced risk of a long list of diseases, including diabetes, certain cancers, and cardiovascular disease.
Whole grains also contain protective antioxidants in quantities as high or higher than many fruits and vegetables. Corn, for example, has almost twice the antioxidant activity of apples, while wheat and oats almost equal broccoli and spinach in antioxidant activity. LESS
Are You Eating Enough Whole Grains?READ MORE
Whole wheat bread and brown rice are not the only ways to increase whole grains in your diet. Whole grains can be incorporated into every meal of the day, including snacks and dessert. And if 100% whole grain products are difficult to find or don’t appeal to you, choose alternatives that have at least 50% whole grains. Note, though, that labels like “stone-ground” and “multi grain” do not guarantee whole-grain content. Color is not necessarily a good indicator either, since molasses is sometimes added to make bread appear darker and richer in whole grains than it actually is. Here are other ways to increase whole grains in your diet.
- Breakfast whole grains can include cold or hot cereals, muffins or even whole grain pancakes.
- Lunch whole grains can include whole grain breads, but also soups with barley or wild rice. Most veggie burgers are also rich in whole grains. Have it on a whole grain roll for double benefit.
- Supper can include whole grain pastas or side dishes such as pilafs, which can include not just brown rice but other less common grains as well.
- Snacks can include whole grain chips, crackers or popcorn. Sweet snacks or dessert whole grains can be found in cookies, muffins, granola bars and quick breads.