Nutrition Tip of the Week: Whole grains
Whole grains have many health benefits. First, whole grains are made from, literally the whole grain. This means that it retains all of its fiber and vitamin content for use by your body. Dietary fiber from whole grains may lower our risk for heart disease, obesity, and type 2 diabetes. Fiber also helps us feel full, longer; can reduce constipation; helps with proper bowel function; and supports colon health. Vitamins in whole grains (thiamin, riboflavin, and niacin) play an important role with our metabolism. The alternative to a whole grain is a refined grain. Refined grains have been stripped of their vitamin and fiber content, leaving only the carbohydrate portion. If a grain is enriched, some of the vitamin content (but not the fiber) has been added back; however, whole grains are still the best option. The USDA’s guidance is to make at least half of your grains, whole grains.
Whole grains can be any grain—wheat, rye, oats, barley, quinoa, brown rice, corn, triticale, etc.
How do you know if your product is a whole grain? Read the label! Look for the claim, “100% whole grain”—this means that whole grain is the only grain used in the product (as opposed to using some whole grain and some refined grain). Another thing to look for is if the first ingredient listed on the ingredient list is a whole grain. The first ingredient on the ingredient list is the ingredient present in the largest quantity in the product. If the list starts with whole grain wheat, then later says enriched wheat—the product at least has more whole wheat than enriched wheat (not whole wheat).
If a product says ‘multi-grain’—it literally contains multiple types of grain (i.e. wheat, oats, barley). These grains may or may not be whole. To find out, read the ingredient list and look for whole wheat, whole grain oats, or whole grain barley.
If this is confusing, another ‘rule of thumb’ is the 10:1 rule. The 10:1 rule describes the carbohydrate to fiber ratio, for every 10 grams of carbs there should be 1 gram of fiber. When a product meets this rule it is most likely a whole grain product. Products that meet the rule also tend to have less sugar and are generally more balanced in nutrients. So next time you go shopping for a whole grain item, keep your eye out for this ratio to help you make a healthy choice.
For more information on whole grains, go to: https://www.choosemyplate.gov/grains-nutrients-health