What’s So Great About Whole Grains?

September 12, 2016

September is Whole Grains Month, and to celebrate let’s remind ourselves about the benefits and basics of whole grains.

September is Whole Grains Month, and to celebrate let’s remind ourselves about the benefits and basics of 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% of the original kernel, all of the bran, germ, and endosperm, is present. Whole grains provide fiber, vitamin E, and minerals such as iron, zinc, and magnesium. 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.

Dietary guidelines suggest eating at least three servings of whole grains every day. Research has shown that three daily servings (about ½ cup each) can reduce the risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and digestive system cancers. 

A recent Harvard meta analysis found that those who ate three daily servings (or more) of whole grains cut their risk of dying by nearly 20 percent compared with those who ate little or no whole grains.

Remind shoppers to choose whole over other processed grains. So, what grains are considered whole? 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.

In terms of products with the Whole Grains Stamp, here’s how to help guide shoppers as to 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 (ex 25 grams), it will use the Basic Stamp if it also contains extra bran, germ, or refined flour.

Here are some other ways to get shoppers to eat more whole grains. Suggest adding 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 in regular recipes for cookies, muffins, and cakes

Click here to learn more about the whole grains council and stamp, visit www.wholegrainscouncil.org.