5 Reasons to Eat Whole Grains

May 07, 2014

According to a recent study, Americans are still not getting enough whole grains. Find out why you need them and a refresher on what they actually are, here...

According to a University of Minnesota study published in the journal Nutrition Research, we're still not eating enough whole grains and fiber.

Researchers looked at whole grain and fiber intakes for over 9,000 Americans ages two and up based on data from national nutrition and health surveys conducted in 2009 and 2010. They found that 39 percent of children and teens and 42 percent of adults consumed no whole grains at all! Only three percent of children and teens and about 8 percent of adults ate at least the recommended three servings per day.

Here are the five things about whole grains you need to know.

What are whole grains?
Whole grains, or foods made from them, contain all of the essential parts and naturally occurring nutrients of the entire grain seed. This means that 100 percent of the original kernel, all of the bran, germ, and endosperm, must be present to qualify as a whole grain. Some examples include: whole or cracked wheat, corn, cornmeal, popcorn, brown and colored rice, oatmeal and whole oats, barley, quinoa, sorghum, spelt and whole rye. Other examples are, grains and flours made from the following: amaranth, buckwheat, bulgur, emmer, farro, grano (lightly pearled wheat), millet, triticale, wheat berries and wild rice (which looks like a rice but is actually a different kind of grain, more akin to a grass).

Nutrition? Whole grains provide fiber, vitamin E, and minerals such as iron, zinc, and magnesium. The outer skin of the seed contains B vitamins, antioxidants and the fiber-rich bran; the germ holds the protein, minerals and healthy fats; and the endosperm contains protein, carbohydrates and smaller quantities of vitamins and minerals. The bran and germ contain 25 percent of the protein in whole grains and the majority of the nutrients. When highly processed, these valuable nutrients and proteins are lost - not to mention healthful fiber.

How much should we eat?
Dietary guidelines suggest we get at least three servings of whole grains a day. Research has shown that just three daily servings (about ½ cup) can reduce the risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and digestive system cancers.

USDA fiber recommendations vary by age. Young children need 19 to 25 grams of fiber each day while older kids, teens and adults need anywhere from 21 to 38 grams per day.

What does the whole grain stamp mean?
In terms of products with the Whole Grains Stamp, here’s how to determine what’s inside. There are two different varieties of the Stamp:
100% Stamp: all its grain ingredients are whole grains. There is a minimum requirement of 16 grams (a full serving) of whole grain per labeled serving.

Basic Stamp: contains at least 8 grams (a half serving) of whole grain, but may also contain some refined grain. Even if a product contains large amounts of whole grain (eg: 25 grams), it will use the Basic Stamp if it also contains extra bran, germ, or refined flour.

Some SupermarketGuru out of the box suggestions:
Add cooked grains to soups, salads and casseroles. A half-cup of bulgur, wild rice, brown rice or quinoa will give you six to eight grams of fiber. 
For home bakers, substitute half of the white flour with whole-wheat flour (or quinoa, or brown rice flour) in your regular recipes for cookies, muffins, and cakes.