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Diet Diva
Diet Diva

Get advice on healthy eating, nutrition, and weight loss from expert dietitian Tara Gidus. 

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What's Whole Grain?


With whole grains so popular right now, it is really confusing what really is whole grain and what looks like it may be whole grain, but doesn't really pass the test. There is more to whole grains than whole wheat bread and brown rice!

First, let's talk about the benefits of whole grains:
  • Lower glycemic index
  • Higher fiber (but not always)
  • Contains all three parts of grain (bran, endosperm, and germ)
  • Higher nutritional quality
  • May help reduce risk of diabetes, heart disease cancer
  • May help reduce inflammation
  • Slows blood sugar response
  • Helps to keep you full longer
Whole Grains:
  • Whole wheat
  • Oatmeal
  • Corn
  • Popcorn
  • Brown rice
  • Rye
  • Barley
  • Wild Rice
  • Buckwheat
  • Triticale
  • Bulgar (cracked wheat)
  • Millet
  • Quinoa

Just because a label says, "made with whole grains," "stone-ground," "multigrain," "seven grain," "bran," or "cracked wheat" this does not mean it is whole grain. "Made with" usually means made with very little. Multigrain just means it has a few different grains in there...it could be refined wheat, white rice, and refined corn. Also, just because something is brown, that does not mean it is whole grain. Molasses or other coloring can make a food appear brown.

The best way to know if something is whole grain is to look at the ingredient list and watch for one of the above whole grains as the first or second ingredient. "Wheat flour" means refined white flour. It will say "whole wheat" if it is indeed whole grain (whole wheat) flour.

Tip:
Remember that corn is a whole grain. Popcorn without a lot of added fat or sodium can be a very healthy snack! Whole grain crackers, cereals, oatmeal, whole wheat bread, whole wheat pasta, and brown rice are also easy ways to get whole grains. But don't be afraid of trying quinoa, bulgar, millet, or barley. You may be pleasantly surprised!

Bet you didn't know:

Bran is the outer layer of the grain. The inside is the germ, which contains most of the nutrients, and the starchy part is the endosperm. Most refined grains have removed the bran and the germ and just contain the starchy endosperm. In order to be considered a whole grain, all three components must be present (germ, endosperm, bran). So, bran cereals are not necessarily whole grain because they may only contain the bran! Just because something is high in fiber (bran) doesn't necessarily mean it is whole grain! And not all whole grains are high in fiber!

For more information on whole grains, visit the Whole Grains Council at www.wholegrainscouncil.org

Photo of quinoa, black beans, and corn courtesy of sashertootie
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About the Author


MS, RD, CSSD, LD/N

Tara Gidus is a nationally recognized expert and spokesperson on nutrition and fitness.

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