Whole Grains Defined

November 01, 2012

The whole grain label is gaining popularity - but have we forgotten what a whole grain is in the first place? Find out here

Recently revealed at the Whole Grains on Every Plate Conference, the Whole Grain stamp is now on more than 7,600 products in 35 countries, and the number of new products featuring claims about whole grains has increased from 164 in 2000 to greater than 3,000 last year (2011). But with packaged goods carrying all types of labeling including the Whole Grains Stamp, what does it actually mean?

Whole grains – or foods made from them – contain all 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, must be present to qualify as a whole grain. 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 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.

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.

Whole grains 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).

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 (ex 25 grams), it will use the Basic Stamp if it also contains extra bran, germ, or refined flour.

Some SupermarketGuru whole grain suggestions out of the box include:
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 in your regular recipes for cookies, muffins, and cakes

To learn more about the whole grains council and stamp, visit www.wholegrainscouncil.org