What Are Whole Grains and Why Should You Eat Them?
Whole grain contains all three parts of the natural grain: the bran, the germ and the endosperm. Examples of whole grains include whole-grain flours, oatmeal, whole cornmeal, popcorn, brown rice and bulgur. Because nothing is removed during processing, whole-grain foods contain more natural fiber, vitamins and minerals than their refined counterparts.
Refined grains have been stripped of their bran and germ, and along with them most of the B-vitamins, iron and dietary fiber left intact in whole grains. Examples of refined-grain foods are white rice and anything made with white flour.
Whole grains are rich in B-vitamins and minerals, including iron to carry oxygen through the blood, magnesium to help build bones and muscle and selenium for a healthy immune system. Thanks to its intact fiber, whole-grain foods tend to be more sustaining than refined ones, keeping hunger at bay longer. They also aid your health in other ways, helping to regulate your blood sugar and cholesterol levels, and to lower blood pressure.
Choosing Whole Grain
Whole grains cannot be identified by color. Bread, for example, can be brown because of molasses or other ingredients, not necessarily because it contains whole grains. That’s why it’s important to read the ingredient list on the food label. For many whole-grain products, you will see the words “whole” or “whole grain” before the grain’s name in the ingredient list. The whole grain should be the first ingredient listed.
Choose foods that contain one of the following ingredients first on the label’s ingredient list: whole wheat, graham flour, oatmeal, whole oats, brown rice, wild rice, whole-grain corn, popcorn, whole-grain barley, whole-wheat bulgur and whole rye. These are all whole grains.
An easy way to identify whole-grain products is to look for the American Heart Association Whole Grain heart-check mark on food labels.