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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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Wholy Grains!

Whole grains are hot! In fact, sales of whole grains have skyrocketed since the beginning of 2005. Thankfully, ultra low carb diets are finally out (hurray!) and consumers want quality foods with that dynamic duo – tastes good and good for you. And I’ve gotta say, whole grains deliver (did you know that popcorn is whole grain? Yum!). The latest Dietary Guidelines recommend eating 3 or more servings of whole grains each day. But on average, Americans eat just one, and almost half eat none (not so hot). So, let’s start with the big question - what the heck is a whole grain anyway?

Well, in a nutshell, whole grains contain the entire grain kernel, which has three distinct parts - the bran (outer skin), the germ (the inner part that sprouts into a new plant), and the endosperm (the germ’s food supply). Refined grains, on the other hand (like white bread and white rice), have been processed, which removes both the bran and the germ (yikes!). Processing gives grains a finer texture, and improves their shelf life, but it also removes precious dietary fiber, iron, and many vitamins.

But whole grains aren’t just more nutritious – they’re powerful disease fighters linked to lower rates of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, certain cancers, and even obesity. Surprised by that last one? Several studies back this up. A few years ago, researchers found that men who ate 40 grams of whole grains per day (i.e. one cup of cooked oatmeal or two slices of whole-wheat bread) cut middle-age weight gain by up to 3.5 pounds. And that’s nothing to sneeze at – 3.5 pounds of fat is the equivalent of about 14 sticks of butter! Another study found that among 74,000 women, those who ate whole grains consistently weighed less than those who didn’t (I guess whole grains don’t discriminate!).

Examples of whole grains include 100% whole-wheat products, bulgur, oatmeal, whole corn or cornmeal, brown rice, buckwheat, popcorn (probably my favorite one), whole rye, and wild rice. And more “exotic” whole grains (at least in this country) include amaranth, millet, quinoa, sorghum, and triticale. So, now that you know what to look for – what counts as a serving? About 1 cup of whole grain dry cereal, a half cup of hot cereal, 1 slice of whole grain bread, a half cup of a cooked grain like rice, or 3 cups of popped popcorn. Given that, three a day is a piece of cake, right? Oatmeal for breakfast, 100% whole wheat bread at lunch, brown rice for dinner and ta-daaa, you’re there! Realistically, you’re not going to go through life never having another refined grain (my husband gave my whole grain chocolate chip cookies the thumbs down). But whenever you can, swap a refined version for a whole version and you’ll gain a “whole” lotta benefits (tee-hee).
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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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