What About All this Whole Grains Talk
Whole grains have become all the rage in the last few years. You see it listed on everything from cereal boxes to pizza dough. What does it really mean when it says "Whole Grains?" What is a whole grain? Why do you want to choose whole grains over processed grains in the first place? Let's explore these and other questions as we look at the importance of whole grain foods.
What Foods Contain Grains?
Any food that contains wheat, rice, oats, cornmeal, barley or another cereal grain is considered a grain product. Examples of common foods made from grains are bread, pasta, pop corn, oatmeal, breakfast cereals, tortillas, and grits. Grains are then broken into whole grains and processed grains. To say Whole grains on the package, grains must be minimally processed and include the entire grain kernel (the bran, the germ, and the endosperm). Processed grains have these nutritious parts of the grain stripped away leaving the grain and the food with less fiber, vitamins and minerals. Examples of whole grains include:
bulgur (cracked wheat)
rolled oats and oatmeal
brown and wild rice
whole corn (cornmeal and popcorn)
What the FDA Says about Whole Grains
In 2005, the FDA drafted guidance for manufacturers on whole grains. The following quote is taken from the FDA website, ".the agency (FDA) considers "whole grain" to include cereal grains that consist of the intact, ground, cracked or flaked fruit of the grains whose principal components -- the starchy endosperm, germ and bran -- are present in the same relative proportions as they exist in the intact grain." So you can see that for a product to state that it contains whole grains, it must retain all the "principal" components present at harvest.
What About Processed or Refined Grains?
This also comes from the FDA website, "In the grain-refining process, most of the bran and some of the germ is removed, resulting in the loss of dietary fiber (also known as cereal fiber), vitamins, minerals, lignans, phytoestrogens, phenolic compounds, and phytic acid. Some manufacturers add bran to grain products to increase the dietary fiber content." Processed grains, because of their lack of fiber and particle size, will raise your blood sugar faster than whole grains. Refined grains usually are enriched with some of the same vitamins that are removed in the refining processing.
Whole Grains vs. Processed Grains
So which do you choose? Whole grains are going to be your better choice only because they retain more of the original vitamins, mineral and fiber. Some food products taste drastically different (most would say worse) if they are made with whole grains; some examples would be certain breads, pies or cakes and most snack foods. Again, it's all about balance so try for a majority of whole grains when planning your daily meals.
Serving Sizes for Whole Grains
An average adult should get between 3 and 5 servings of whole grains per day. Below are the recommended serving sizes for foods that contain whole grains:
1/2 cup cooked rice, bulgur, pasta, or cooked cereal
1 ounce dry pasta, rice or other dry grain
1 slice bread
1 small muffin (weighing one ounce)
1 cup ready-to-eat cereal flakes
To learn more go to the Whole Grain Council at http://www.wholegrainscouncil.org/Guidelines2005.htm
or the FDA at http://www.mypyramid.gov/pyramid/grains.html