The Whole Scoop on Whole Grains

August 18, 2020

Does it feel like you constantly hear people telling you to eat whole grains but you’re not exactly sure what that means or why and how you should do it? Many people equate whole grains with fiber, and while it’s true that they contain a good deal of fiber, there is much more to the equation. So, let’s end the confusion with a little helpful information here. 


Whole grains are exactly what they sound like – a complete grain. This means that all three parts of the grain – the bran, the endosperm, and the germ – are intact and are working together in their natural proportions. 

  • Bran – The coarse outer layer of the grain that protects the seed. It contains fiber, B vitamins, and trace minerals.
  • Endosperm – This middle layer of the grain contains mostly carbohydrates. This is the source of energy for the growing plant.
  • Germ – The small, nutrient-rich core of the grain kernel. It contains antioxidants, vitamin E, B vitamins and healthy fats.   


So why is including all three parts of the grain important?

  • Protect heart health
  • Manage weight
  • Reduce cancer risk
  • Reduce diabetes risk


And how do I know if something is a whole grain?  Food made with whole grains such as wheat, oats, corn, or rice will list it at or near the top of the ingredient list.  Make sure to look for the words “whole” or “whole grain” before the grain’s name. Foods can claim to be “multi-grain” and “100% wheat” or “high fiber” and not necessarily be whole grain foods.

  • Try whole-wheat bread instead of white or wheat bread and brown rice instead of white rice. Use the brown rice as a side or as a stuffing in baked peppers.
  • Try whole-wheat pasta in any of your favorite pasta dishes, such as whole-wheat macaroni in macaroni and cheese.
  • Use whole grains in mixed dishes, such as barley in vegetable soup or stews and bulgur wheat in a casserole or stir-fry.
  • Create a whole grain pilaf with a mixture of barley, wild rice, brown rice, broth and spices. You can also add in toasted nuts or chopped dried fruit.
  • Experiment by substituting whole wheat or oat flour for up to half of the flour in pancake, waffle, muffin or other flour-based recipes. (Note that you may need to add a bit more leavening).
  • Try rolled oats or a crushed, unsweetened whole grain cereal as breading for baked chicken, fish, veal cutlets, or eggplant parmesan

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