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The Greatness of Grains and How to Pick Whole Grain Products


Grains account for three-fourths of the world's food supply and are part of every culture. They are eaten whole (rice, oatmeal), as baked goods (bread, tortillas, crackers), and as pasta (spaghetti, couscous, spaetzle, udon noodles).

  • There are three parts to a grain.
  • The germ is the center, it's rich in protein, poly-unsaturated fatty acids, vitamins and minerals.
  • The endosperm, the middle part, is mostly starch.
  • The bran is the outer covering, it's rich in nutrients and fiber.
  • In their natural state, grains are chock full of B vitamins, iron, potassium and dietary fiber.
  • However, grains are often refined. When refined, brown rice, for example, loses its bran to make white rice.
  • Refined flours, such as white flour, are made from the endosperm only and have almost no fiber and decreased vitamins and minerals.

How to Pick Whole Grain Products

  • When buying bread, make sure you get the ones made from whole grains, so that you get the germ, the bran, and the endosperm. Look at the ingredient list. You want to see "whole wheat flour" or a combination of whole grains ingredients listed first.

  • "Whole wheat" bread: This bread is made entirely from whole grain wheat flour, which contains all the components of the wheat kernel: the germ, bran, and endosperm.
  • "Wheat" bread: This is not whole wheat bread. Wheat bread usually contains a mixture of about 75% white flour and 25% whole wheat flour.
  • It's sometimes hard to tell if the bread you are buying is made with whole grain or whole wheat flour. Don't be fooled by the color! Not all brown bread is whole wheat. The brown color may be from caramel coloring, which will be listed on the label. Its nutrient value is similar to white bread. Most store-purchased rye bread or pumpernickel bread is made mostly with white flour.
  • Also, choose crackers that are labeled "whole wheat" or "whole grain".
  • Just as with bread, look for whole wheat pasta which will be labeled as such. Unlike some bread companies, manufacturers of white flour pastas don't darken their pasta to make it look more "whole wheat".
  • Many grain products are labeled as "enriched". This means most of the nutrients that were lost during processing have been added back. When it comes to cereals and breads, often the B vitamins (thiamin, riboflavin and niacin) and iron are added back. Other components of whole grain products, such as antioxidants and fatty acids, are not added back.
  • You will also see "fortified" on food labels. Fortified means vitamins or minerals that are not found in the food naturally or found in only very small amounts are added to the food. More and more foods are fortified today. Folic acid is added to grain products, calcium is added to orange juice and cereals. Milk is fortified with vitamin A and D, and in some areas, fat-free milk has extra calcium added.
  • Don't forget to read the food labels when buying whole grain products!


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