Contributed by Beryl Henzy
Research conducted by the General Mills Company suggests that 61% of Americans believe that they are consuming the recommended three servings of whole grains per day, yet the U.S. Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee puts that number at 5%.
Why does this matter?
It is generally recognized that whole grains are an essential component of a well-balanced diet. Whole grains contain loads of B vitamins for energy, folate for pregnancy and heart health, and fiber for optimal digestive function. Fiber also helps keep you fuller longer, a boon for weight management. Research suggests that whole grains may have protective effects against cardiovascular disease, Type 2 diabetes, stroke, and certain cancers.
Whole vs. Refined
The difference between whole grains and refined is the degree of processing. The grain kernel is composed of the endosperm (starch and protein), the bran (fiber, vitamins, and minerals), and the germ (vitamins and minerals, protein, and fat). A refined grain has had the kernel stripped of the bran and the germ, leaving only the endosperm, which is why white bread seems starchy. A whole grain leaves the entire kernel intact, affording all the benefits of the bran and the germ as well as the starch of the endosperm.
White bread became popular in the early 20th century as a symbol of wealth. No rough country peasant bread for me, thank you. In 1943, noticing nutrient deficiencies in the troops, the U.S. government mandated enrichment of wheat. Any refined grain product has to be enriched with the nutrients that were stripped out: thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, iron, and folate. Solves the problem, right? Not exactly. They forgot to put the fiber back in, and the amounts of nutrients, except for folate, are not equal to the whole grain version. Plus, if we flash forward to the 21st century we now know that all that white bread causes high triglycerides, depressed good cholesterol, and insulin resistance – leading to diabetes. Maybe white bread is not such a good thing after all.
Find Whole Grains
When you read a food label, look for the words “whole grain” or “stone-ground”. This is the only guarantee that it is a whole grain product. “Wheat flour”, “multi-grain”, “enriched wheat flour” means nothing. The other big clue that you are purchasing whole grain bread or cereal is the fiber content. One serving of enriched bread may have 0-1 grams of fiber, where one serving of whole grains may have 2-5 grams. Fiber recommendations are between 25 (women) and 38 (men) grams per day, for children add 5 to their age to get their recommended grams of fiber per day. For example, 5 years old + 5 = 10 grams of fiber/day.
Trick of the Trade
A very quick and easy way to make sure your food is a good source of fiber find Dietary fiber on your food label then look for foods with at least 10% Daily Value. If your bread, cereal, crackers, etc. are less than 10% DV for fiber, put it back on the shelf and find another choice.
Whole wheat bread and pasta may be an acquired taste, but once you try it you will love the hearty, earthy character of these products. Some to try include DeCecco or Barilla pasta, Uncle Ben’s brown rice, Arnold’s bread, or Post Shredded Wheat or Grape Nuts. You will be getting a lot more nutritional bang for the buck
For more information, visit http://www.wholegrainscouncil.org/