Whole Grains 101

By Kathy Ferguson, RN, Parish Nurse

But as for you, take wheat, barley, beans, lentils, millet and spelt, put them in one vessel and make them into bread for yourself…  Ezekiel  4:9

The Whole Grains Council, a nonprofit consumer advocacy group, wants you to learn more about whole grains and eat more of them for better health. September is National Whole Grains Month (There is a month for nearly everything!) and it is a time to better understand, cook, eat, and enjoy whole grain foods. This month’s article will give you some basic information about whole grains.

What are whole grains?

  • A grain is considered to be a whole grain as long as all three original parts — the bran, germ, and endosperm — are still present as when the grain was growing in the fields.
  • Some examples of whole grains include: barley, buckwheat, corn, oats, quinoa, brown/colored rice, wild rice, rye, wheat

Why should I eat whole grains?

  • People who eat whole grains regularly have a lower risk of obesity and lower cholesterol levels.
  • Whole grains are filling and satisfying.
  • According to the Whole Grains Council, people who eat three daily servings of whole grains have been shown to reduce their risk of heart disease, stroke, Type 2 diabetes, and certain cancers.

How do I know if I am buying a whole grain product?

  • Look for the Whole Grain Stamp on products. These are examples of the 3 levels of stamps that you may see on products. Each will list the number of grams per serving for the product.
  • Check the label. Look for the words/phrases like whole grain, whole wheat, oats, wheat berries. If you only see the terms enriched, bran, or wheat germ it is not a whole grain product.
  • Look at the list of ingredients. If the first ingredient listed contains the word “whole” (such as “whole wheat flour” or “whole oats”), it is likely – but not guaranteed – that the product is predominantly whole grain.
  • Checking the fiber on a label is not a very reliable way to guess whether a product is truly whole grain. High-fiber products may not have much, if any, whole grain.

OK, so if something has a Whole Grain Stamp on it, does that mean it’s healthy and good for me?

  • Not necessarily. The Whole Grain Stamp just informs you that the product is made with whole grains. Look at the label for other information about not-so-healthy ingredients like sugar, high fructose corn syrup, sodium, saturated fats, and trans fats.

Here are a couple practical examples of what I do to increase the whole grains in my diet:

  • I read labels closely! I had never noticed the Whole Grain Stamp before researching this article. Even if it has the stamp, I still look at the ingredients.
  • I have tried a sprouted whole grain bread—Ezekiel 4:9 bread (usually in the freezer section). I did not like it, but I tried the Ezekiel English muffins and they are very good when toasted. These products contain no added sugar, but they do contain gluten. Note the Bible verse accompanying today’s article; it is where these products get their name.
  • Although I don’t eat a lot of rice, I have incorporated brown rice, wild rice, and red rice into my diet.

Give whole grains a try in September! It’s a healthy thing to do!


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