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Sunday, November 9, 2014

Grains – Are you eating whole grains?

It is amazing how many people have no idea what a whole grain is and what foods are whole grain and which are just refined grains.  To have a healthy diet, one needs whole grains in their diet, yet so many people have no idea what that means.  I was presenting at a high school class while the students ate their lunches.  All the students said they ate whole grains.  When I asked them what on their lunch tray was whole grain they pointed to the white roll, the breading on their fried chicken, the mashed potatoes.  Of course, none of these foods are whole grain.  Fortunately, I was there to help them learn what whole grains were.   I’ve asked many adults what whole grain bread is and they respond, if the bread is dark in color, any brown at all, it is whole grain.  Not true.
What is whole grain?  To be whole grain, the food needs to contain 100% of all parts of the grain seed including the bran, endosperm and germ.  When food manufacturers refine grains, they remove the bran and germ and most of the nutrients and nutritional benefits of the grain.  The Whole Grains Council lists whole grains as:

  • Amaranth
  • Barley
  • Buckwheat – Try buckwheat pancakes
  • Corn – whole cornmeal and Popcorn
  • Millet
  • Oats – oatmeal is a super healthy cereal
  • Quinoa
  • Rice – brown rice and colored rice – going out to Chipotle?  Choose the brown rice.
  • Rye – very hard to find whole grain rye bread, most is refined
  • Wheat – only if whole wheat.  Many breads are called “Wheat Bread” but this isn’t whole grain bread, just wheat flour dyed brown.   Need to look for 100% Whole Wheat Bread.
  • Wild Rice 
         Many people avoid starches and grains.  And we should avoid or cut back on eating white bread, foods made with white flour.  But whole grains should be added to our diets as whole grains have so many health benefits.  The Whole Grain Council notes:   
  1.   Whole grains reduce our risk of heart attacks, strokes, cancer, diabetes and even obesity. 
  2. Whole grains have phytochemicals and antioxidants that are removed when they make white flour.  These phytochemicals and antioxidants are super healthy.  
  3. Eating at least 3 servings of of whole grains a day, reduces: 
    • heart disease risk by 25-36%
    • Stroke  by 37%
    • Type II diabetes by 21-37%
    • Digestive cancers by 21-43%    
Find ways to add whole grains to your day.  I often have low fat microwave popcorn. (Not theatre popcorn which is super high in fat and salt.)  Buy bread, bagels, English Muffins labeled 100% Whole Wheat and not Wheat Bread.  Try Triscuits, Wheat Thins as snack crackers.  We like buckwheat pancakes, a little dry but tasty.  Cook up some quinoa as a side dish for dinner. 
For more information on whole grains go to the Whole Grains Council at http://wholegrainscouncil.org/.  An interesting website that talks about the health benefits of whole grains is:  http://www.100daysofrealfood.com/2011/10/17/nutrients-in-refined-vs-whole-grains/.

Sources:  Whole Grains Council and Nutrients in Refined vs Whole Grains,  Image Source:Whole Grain Council

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