Whole Grains Guide

Written by
Published in Dec 2005; Updated in Aug 2007

whole grains health benefits( You've probably heard a lot about how good for you whole grains can be. But do you really know what whole grains are – or why they're so beneficial?

A grain is considered whole when all three parts – bran, germ and endosperm – are present. Most people know that fruits and vegetables contain beneficial phytochemicals and antioxidants, but many do not realize that whole grains are often an even better source of these key nutrients. In fact, whole grains are a good source of B vitamins, Vitamin E, magnesium, iron and fiber, as well as other valuable antioxidants not found in some fruits and vegetables. Most of the antioxidants and vitaminsare found in the germ and the bran of a grain.

Common Types of Whole Grains:

  • wild rice
  • brown rice
  • whole wheat
  • oatmeal
  • whole oats
  • barley
  • whole rye
  • bulgar
  • popcorn

Less Common Types of Whole Grains:

  • amaranth
  • millet
  • quinoa
  • sorghum
  • triticale

Recommendations on Whole Grains

Whole grains have been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease by decreasing cholesterol levels, blood pressure, and blood coagulation. Whole grains have also been found to reduce the risks of many types of cancer. They may also help regulate blood glucose in people living with diabetes. Other studies have also shown that people who consume more whole grains consistently weigh less than those who consumed less whole grain products.

In January 2005, the US government published the new Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2005. One of the new guidelines recommends that all adults eat half their grains as whole grains – that's at least 3 servings of whole grains a day.

Increase whole grain intake: An easy way to increase whole grain intake is to replace some of your refined-grain products with whole grain products.

  • have a slice of whole grain bread to replace your white bread
  • have a serving of whole grain breakfast cereal in the morning
  • substitute half the white flour with whole wheat flour in your regular recipes for cookies, muffins, quick breads and pancakes
  • add brown rice, wild rice or barley in your vegetable soup
  • snack on popcorn instead of chips on movie nights

whole grains health benefitsCheck labels carefully! Foods labelled with the words "multi-grain," "stone-ground," "100% wheat," "cracked wheat," "seven-grain," or "bran" are usually not whole-grain products. Color is also not an indication of a whole grain. Brown does not necessary mean whole wheat or whole grain! Some brown bread has brown coloring added to achieve the brown color!

When determining if a packaged food product contains whole grain or not, look for the word "whole" in the ingredient list. Also look for the Whole Grain Stamp (see above examples). A "good source" stamp contains at least 1/2 serving of whole grains while an "excellent source" contains at least 1 serving of whole grains.

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