Heather Catledge, LDN, CLC, WIC Nutritionist
Does it feel like everything is all about “whole grain” these days? Have you ever wondered what exactly is a whole grain? A whole grain is made from the entire grain—including the bran, germ and endosperm. “Refined” flours, like white and enriched wheat flour, include only the starchy part of the grain, the endosperm. If you only eat refined grains, you’re missing out on many of the nutrients found in the other layers of the grain. Also, whole grains help you feel fuller longer, since they have more fiber which takes longer to digest.
Like many things in life, what you think you see is not always what you get! Some food labels will boast that the item contains whole grain, but in reality the whole grain is only a small portion of all the grain in that food. Your best bet? Read the ingredient list and look for the word “whole” as the first ingredient.
Years ago, there were few whole grain products on the market, and shoppers had no reliable way to find foods offering a significant amount of whole grains. Luckily, times have changed. You can find whole grains in a lot of products in your local neighborhood supermarket. Wheat products include 100% whole wheat bread and tortillas, like those available from WIC. Many cereals are 100% whole grain, or have added whole grains such that more than half the grain in the box is the healthiest kind. Whole grain pastas help to give your meal an extra boost of nutrition. Popcorn (season with herbs instead of butter and salt), oatmeal, and brown rice are all delicious whole grains to enjoy. If you’re adventurous, search for recipes that use buckwheat, bulgur or quinoa.
With such a wide assortment of whole grains, you could almost try a new one at each meal! The catch phrase these days is “make half of your grains whole.” I don’t know about you, but I like a challenge! I aim for making most, if not all, of my grains whole. Tell us what you’ve tried!