Goodness of Grains

This article, entitled "Goodness of Grains," comes from partner site Best Food Facts.

Grains represent a valuable part of any diet, and today dietary guidelines suggest about half the grains you eat should be whole grains. But what is a whole grain, and how can you include more whole grains into your diet?

What is a whole grain?

The Whole Grains Council says whole grains, or foods made from them, contain all the essential parts and naturally-occurring nutrients of the entire grain seed in their original proportions. If the grain has been processed (e.g., cracked, crushed, rolled, extruded, and/or cooked), the food product should deliver the same rich balance of nutrients that are found in the original grain seed.

Whole grains contain the whole grain seed, including the bran, the endosperm and the germ, while refined grains contain only the endosperm. The process of refining grains strips the majority of fiber, B vitamins, magnesium, selenium, folate and iron from the product, leaving it with less nutritional value.

Here is a list of whole grains.

Whole grains offer you many advantages, including:

  • Nutritional value
  • Affordability
  • Versatility

1. Nutritional Value

Adding whole grains to your diet aids in the consumption of these vitamins and minerals that are not present in refined grain products. Because they are nutritional powerhouses, whole grains may help prevent digestive problems such as constipation, decrease the risk of cardiovascular disease by lowering LDL ("bad" cholesterol), and may also help with weight management.

Liz Weiss, registered dietitian, author and family nutrition expert, says people who eat whole grains as part of a healthy diet have a reduced risk of heart disease and other chronic conditions. Eating a variety of grains can help ensure that you get more nutrients in your diet -- especially fiber -- and they help to make your meals and snacks more exciting.

The Whole Grains Council says the benefits of whole grains include:

  • stroke risk reduced 30-36 percent
  • type 2 diabetes risk reduced 21-30 percent
  • heart disease risk reduced 25-28 percent
  • better weight maintenance
  • reduced risk of asthma
  • healthier carotid arteries
  • reduction of inflammatory disease risk
  • lower risk of colorectal cancer
  • healthier blood pressure levels
  • less gum disease and tooth loss

2. Affordability

More good news about whole grains is that they are not expensive, according to the University of Illinois Extension. Some tips on getting the most bang for your buck with whole grains include buying store brands or generics and buying in bulk.

Many of your favorite grains are available as whole grains for the same price. You can find whole grain cereal, rice pasta, bread, crackers, tortillas and more. To get your family used to the more wholesome taste, start by mixing them together – like half brown rice and half white rice. Slowly increase the amount of whole grains you use.

Another money-saving bonus? Whole grains can keep you fuller longer – so you may not need to cook or serve as much to begin with.

3. Versatility

Whole grains can be used in a variety of different foods, so even if you aren’t a fan of whole wheat bread, you may enjoy pasta made from whole grains. USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service offers this video from Weiss, outlining some options using whole grains.

Weiss says cooked brown or wild rice, quinoa or pasta can be stored 3-5 days, so you can cook once and eat all week. She also offers suggestions for eating whole grains at breakfast, which include things like oatmeal, whole wheat toast or a whole grain breakfast burrito. Not to mention all are easy to make and inexpensive!

Tips when buying whole grains

As you continue to incorporate more whole grains into your and your family’s diet, follow these tips to make the most of whole grains:

  • Make sure each product is actually made from whole grains. Look at the nutrition label and if the first few ingredients are “whole wheat,” “whole grain,” “whole oats," or contain the key word “whole” to determine if you are buying whole grains
  • Look for the Whole Grains Council symbol on the product packaging
  • Look for whole grain food, like brown rice, barley and oats, sold in bulk
  • Buy the raw product whenever possible. When whole grains are further processed into other foods like bread or pasta, the cost you pay increases.

About the Author...
Best Food Facts
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