You’ve heard the news: Whole grains are a must-have in your diet. But what if you can’t figure out how to fit them in (or just don’t know what the heck “whole grain” means)?
Here’s some help.
Whole grains do more than protect the heart. According to many studies, the greater our whole grain intake, the lower risk there is for cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. Eating just three servings a day has shown to lower risks.
I have gotten pretty good at reading labels for nutritional information, but I must confess that I confuse whole grains with fiber quite often. While researching for this column it was made clear to me that for a processed food such as cereal, bread, or pilaf to be considered whole grain (stay with me), the product must contain all three whole-grain components: the germ, the endosperm, and the bran.
The bran is full of fiber, while the germ and endosperm have many of the beneficial nutrients, antioxidants, and other compounds believed to give us the “whole grains” health benefits.
For example, a bran cereal may be loaded with fiber compared to a whole-grain cereal. But the bran cereal won’t necessarily have the added beneficial antioxidants that the whole-grain cereal has.
When choosing products that use whole grains read the list of ingredients. If the word “whole” precedes the word “grain,” it is a whole grain product. If the word “refined” appears, it is not a whole grain product; it is refined — stripped of nutrition and fiber.
The phrase “refined whole wheat,” is a marketing phrase that actually gives you a nutrient-devoid product.
The first place to look for whole grains, especially more common ones like bulgur and barley, is near rice at most markets. Less common grains can sometimes be found in bulk bins at supermarkets and natural-foods stores.