This week's blog post was written by our awesome dietetic intern Monica!
Happy Whole Grains Month! To celebrate, we here at ShopWell will be answering the most burning whole grain questions that consumers have.
Q: So, what’s the big deal about whole grains?
A: According to the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Healthy Americans, Americans are not consuming enough whole grains. Most of the grain products being consumed are made of refined grains.
Q: What is a whole grain, anyway?
A: A whole grain is a seed. It has the bran, endosperm, and germ intact. According to the Whole Grains Council, products made with whole grains must still have the bran, endosperm, and germ present in their original (pre-processed) proportions to be considered whole grain.
..The what? The bran, endosperm, and germ. Think of Russian matryoshka dolls. The bran is the outermost covering of the grain that encases the endosperm. It contains fiber, B vitamins, and minerals. The endosperm envelops the germ. It is starchy and has some proteins as well as some B vitamins. Last but not least, the germ. It is nutrient-rich, containing micronutrients such as B vitamins and vitamin E.
Q: And what is a refined grain?
A: Refined grains are only the endosperm. The bran and germ have been removed. Because the nutrient-rich germ is missing, refined grain products are usually enriched (removed nutrients are added back in) and fortified (adding extra nutrients, not just replacing them).
Q: If refined grains are enriched and fortified, don’t they become equivalent to whole grains?
A: No, and that is because of two words: dietary fiber. The fiber is in the bran of the grain. While refined grains are enriched and fortified with micronutrients such as iron and B vitamins, they are not enriched with fiber. Fiber is important for digestive health and may also help lower cholesterol. Additionally, some refined grain products are laden with added sugar and saturated fat.
Q: What are the health benefits of whole grains?
A: Aside from dietary fiber’s role in digestive health, consumption of whole grains have been linked to reduced risk of obesity, lower blood pressure, and chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
Q: How do I know if what I’m buying is or is made with whole grain?
A: Great question! There are two ways. For the quick and dirty way, just look for the Whole Grains Stamp. Issued by the Whole Grains Council, the stamp ensures at least half a serving of whole grains. The other way is to check the ingredients list. Whole grain ingredients must be one of the first on the list should be explicitly stated as “whole.”
Q: Okay, okay, so, how do I add more whole grains in my diet?
A: It is recommended to have three servings of whole grains a day. This can be in the form of one slice of whole grain toast, one half cup of brown rice, or one half cup of oatmeal. For more ideas on how to increase your whole grain intake, let ShopWell (add URL) help you make personalized swaps!
And there you have it, folks! Incorporating whole grains to your diet will benefit your body immensely. How will you be celebrating National Grains Month?
Monica Cruz is a dietetic intern from San Francisco State University. She believes in incorporating cultural food practices with clinical nutrition concepts to optimize health outcomes. Monica is dedicated to bringing cultural sensitivity to preventive healthcare. Follow her DI journey at AlmostRD.tumblr.com