Get on the Whole Grains Train

Written by Sylvia Geiger MS, RD, CD, Price Chopper Community Nutritionist

As I was making a sandwich for my daughter’s lunch (I know— she’s a high school senior and should do it herself), I remembered that it wasn’t too long ago when “bread” meant only plain white bread. Thankfully, things have changed and grocery stores now have many whole grain bread selections. More importantly, people are purchasing them; last year was the first year Americans bought more whole grain bread than white bread.

This is truly a good thing, because whole grains offer better nutrition; they’re full of fiber, minerals and vitamins that are removed when grains are refined.   According to many studies and the Whole Grains Council, the benefits of whole grains most documented by repeated studies include:

  • stroke risk reduced 30-36%
  • type 2 diabetes risk reduced 21-30%
  • heart disease risk reduced 25-28%
  • better weight maintenance

Other benefits indicated by recent studies include:

  • reduced risk of asthma
  • healthier carotid arteries
  • reduction of inflammatory disease risk
  • lower risk of colorectal cancer
  • healthier blood pressure levels
  • less gum disease and tooth loss

Clearly, eating the recommended 3 servings of whole grains (equal to 48 grams) per day is good for you.  But the reason I buy whole grains for my family is that we simply prefer them.  Their slight nutty flavor and crunch is something we’re now used to, and refined grains just seem bland and lacking in flavor.

Perhaps you still prefer white or refined grains but want to make the switch to eating more whole grains.  Here are some tips for doing this:

  • Read the ingredient list.  The first ingredient should say whole wheat or another whole grain.
  • Use the NuVal scores as a guide. Whole grains foods score higher than refined grain foods. The higher the NuVal score for breads, pastas and starches—the better the nutrition.  But note that some whole grain foods score better than others because they have less added salt or sugar.
  • Try a bread or pasta made with “white whole wheat” flour.  These foods are made with a wheat variety that tastes similar white flour, yet it’s a whole grain.
  • Don’t be fooled by misleading front label claims such as “whole grain” or “whole wheat.” These terms have no FDA definition.  You have to read the ingredient list to be sure it’s a whole grain or use the 100% Whole Grain Stamp from the Whole Grain Council.
  • The 100% Stamp assures you that a food contains a full serving or more of whole grain in each labeled serving and that ALL the grain is whole grain, while the basic Whole Grain Stamp appears on products containing at least half a serving of whole grain per labeled serving.
  • Aside from the whole grain stamp, many cereal & bread companies note the number of grams of whole grains on their label. For breads it’s typically the 8 grams per serving, but some brands may have 13 to 36 grams.
  • Visit the Whole Grains Council site for a complete listing of foods that have the voluntary whole grains stamp.
  • Ingredients such as enriched flour, degerminated (on cornmeal), bran, and wheat germ are terms to describe refined grains—not whole grains.

Whole Grain Ideas for Busy Schedules

Bacony Barley Salad with Marinated Shrimp  or

Hearty Beef Barley Soup

Cauliflower Cous Cous Pilaf

Chocolate Chip Cookies

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  One thought on “Get on the Whole Grains Train

  1. at 12:58 am

    Wow. That seems needlessly complicated.

    Maybe I can try and simplify this. Whole grains are better for you. You should eat more of them. If you want to move in this direction, look for products that are 100% whole grain.

    Manufacturers will try to fool you, because more people are looking for whole grain benefits. So they label their products with words like, “Now with whole grains” or simply “Whole grain” to get you to buy them.

    But the savvy shopper checks ingredients and looks to see if there are any refined grains lurking in the product.

    As an aside, refined grains are delicious. Pizza crusts, croissants, scones, semolina pasta, real baguettes and a host of other of the world’s most detectible offerings simply cannot be made into a shadow of their true glory with whole grains.

    To suggest that these items are in any way bland or boring is fallacious.

    But I do believe that refined grains should be an occasional treat and not an everyday food. I think it’s possible to convince people of this without trying to convince people that whole grain products taste better than their refined grained counterparts. Because in the vast majority of cases, they do not. And even if they do have more flavor, the texture is just not the same.

    After all, one does not have to get used to something that tastes better. Right?

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