Grain products, such as bread, rice, pasta, oatmeal, cereal, and tortillas, are generally low in fat and provide fiber, carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals, and some phytochemicals. Most of the foods we eat are refined grains. For example: white bread, white rice, pasta, pretzels, etc. Refined grains do not contain as many nutrients as whole grains.
A whole grain is the entire edible portion of a grain. A whole grain includes three parts, each with a valuable store of nutrients:
- Brancontains large amounts of B vitamins, minerals, and fiber
- Endospermhouses most of the protein and carbohydrate, and small amounts of vitamins and minerals
- Germcontains B vitamins, minerals, and some protein
White flour, which is the base of many of our foods, is made by refining whole grains. During the refining process, most or all of the bran and germ are removed. White flour that has been enriched has certain nutrients added to it: iron and some B vitamins (including folate). However, many other nutrients are lost, these include:
- Vitamins E and B6
- Minerals: magnesium, copper, zinc
Whole grains are a healthier choice because the ingredients they contain can help lower the risk of many chronic diseases including heart disease, diabetes, and obesity. Soluble fiber (found in oats and barley) can lower cholesterol levels. Antioxidants, such as vitamin E, are believed to help prevent atherosclerosis and lower the risk for coronary artery disease.
Here's How to Get Your Grains: It's easy to eat six grain servings per day. One serving is equal to: 1 cup flaked cereal cup of cooked oatmeal, grits, or cream-of-wheat cereal cup nugget or bud-type cereal3 tablespoons wheat germ1 pancake or waffle, 4 inch diameter English muffin, hamburger roll, pita, or bagel (frozen kind; those from bagel shops can be up to 4 servings)1 slice of bread or dinner roll1 tortilla, 6 inch diameter cup cooked rice, pasta, or barley cup quinoa, bulgur, millet, or other whole grain cup pretzels3-4 small crackers Finding the Whole GrainThe trickiest part about eating whole grains is figuring out which grains truly are whole. To do this, check the ingredient label. The product is a whole grain if the first ingredient is whole wheat or oatmeal. Don't be fooled by brown breads, some are dyed to be that color. Also, a food label that reads "wheat bagel," "stoned wheat," or "seven grain" is not necessarily "whole grain." The following are whole grains: OatmealWhole wheatQuinoaBrown ricePopcorn Some cold breakfast cereals, for example: CheeriosGranola or muesliGrape-NutsNutri-GrainRaisin branShredded wheatTotalWheat germWheaties Some hot breakfast cereals, for example: Oat branOatmealQuaker MultigrainRoman MealWheatena Some crackers, for example: TriscuitsAk-mak RESOURCES:
American Dietetic Associationhttp://www.eatright.org/Public Food and Nutrition, USDAhttp://www.usda.gov CANADIAN RESOURCES: Canada's Food Guidehttp://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/fn-an/food-guide-aliment/index_e.html Dietitians of Canadahttp://www.dietitians.ca/ References: American Heart Association website. Available at: http://www.americanheart.org. United States Department of Agriculture website. Available at: http://www.usda.gov/wps/portal/usdahome. Last reviewed May 2008 by Dianne Scheinberg MS, RD, LDNPlease be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.