Connect with Nutritionista
« Fad Diets | Main | The Omega Dilemma: Could the Risks of Consuming Mercury Contaminated Seafood Outweigh the Benefits? »

Uncovering the Mystery of Whole Grains

When shopping in the grocery store, consumers encounter so many different labels–Stone Ground, Made from Whole Grains, 100% Wheat, Multigrain, Enriched Whole Wheat Flour, Cracked Wheat, Bran, or Pumpernickel-it’s little wonder most come away confused. To further complicate matters, these descriptors do not actually indicate that a product contains whole grains.


What are Whole Grains?

Whole grains contain a rich source of carbohydrates, dietary fiber, proteins, and contain enzymes and bioactive components such as B vitamins, unsaturated fatty acids, trace minerals, and high levels of antioxidants. Subsequently, the consumption of whole grains has been linked to a decreased risk of chronic diseases such as cardiovascular health, obesity, diabetes and cancer. Food companies are quick to capitalize on current health trends with misleading labels so it is important to clear upmisconceptions about what they are and what constitutes an effective serving. 


Whole Grains Anatomy

The term “whole grain” refers to the grain kernel in its unprocessed or processed forms containing all essential parts and naturally occurring nutrients - the bran, endosperm and germ. The bran, which is the protective outer shell, contains the fiber source, B vitamins, trace minerals and unsaturated fats. Under the bran layer is the endosperm, the largest part of the grain. It contains carbohydrates, protein and a small amount of B vitamins. The germ nestled below, contains a rich source of unsaturated fats, trace minerals, B vitamins, and antioxidants. The germ is the grain’s seed, which can be replanted.

Graphic Courtesy of Bob’s Red Mill

Purchasing Whole Grains

When purchasing whole grains, consumers should be aware of terms such as cracked, crushed, rolled, extruded, and/or cooked. This indicates that the grain has been processed and may not contain all essential components. Instead, look for the word “whole” before the type of grain and make sure it is listed higher up in the ingredient listings to ensure the highest possible serving. The Whole Grain Council recommends 3 daily servings of whole grains, approximately 48 total grams. To help consumers reach this goal, the WGC has recently created easy to identify labels indicating accurate grain content. The “100%” label indicates that all of the grain is unprocessed and whole. The WGC stamps do have their limitations, however. Companies must pay to feature them, so not all whole grain products will carry the stamp. It’s important as savvy individuals to be educated about what to look for when buying whole grains and to aim for high quality whole grains of at least 8g per serving.


Courtesy of Oldways and the Whole Grains Council

PrintView Printer Friendly Version

EmailEmail Article to Friend

Reader Comments (1)

It proved to be very helpful to me and I am sure to all the commenters here!boss eyeglasses

December 19, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterbluesky

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.

My response is on my own website »
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
Some HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <code> <em> <i> <strike> <strong>