Whole Grains – What They Are and What They Can Do for Your Health

Consumers can choose their breads from a variety of grains but the healthiest choice are whole grains. Whole wheat bread is the most common whole grain choice but there are many others. The question that many ponder, however, is what exactly are whole grains?

Whole grains are the entire seed of a plant. Whole wheat bread comes from buckwheat or the entire wheat seed. Other whole grains often found on supermarket shelves include brown rice, corn, oats, barley, bulgar and spelt. Whole grains are made up of three parts – endosperm, bran, and germ. Each part has different nutrients, all of which are healthy and good for the human body. When whole grains are consumed, the body gains a larger variety of nutrients than with milled or single grain breads such as white bread.

Some of the nutrients that whole grains include are B and E vitamins, minerals that include zinc, selenium, and copper, and fiber. Phyto-nutrients are also included in the whole grain package and these help keep disease away.

The most recent dietary guidelines or food pyramid released by the United States Government suggest at least three servings of whole grains each day. A serving is sixteen grams or equal to a slice of whole grain bread, half a bagel, or two cups of popcorn, another whole grain.

Three daily servings – or more – of healthy whole grains can lower the risk of heart disease in otherwise healthy individuals. It may also reduce risks for some cancers and for type 2 diabetes.

Whole grains such as rye, barley, oats, and bulgar help keep weight within a healthy range because they are bulky and help to fill up the stomach without adding too many extra calories.

Whole grains are not limited to just the bread and cereal aisles. Look for whole grain pastas like noodles, spaghetti, and macaroni products. Check the baking aisles for whole grain flours that may include whole wheat and even rye. If the local supermarket doesn’t carry a desired whole grain flour, check health food stores who often have a larger selection of whole grain products. Cereals, frozen foods, cake mixes, and other whole grain products are becoming increasingly common on grocery shelves. Whole wheat or buckwheat pancake and waffle mixes are also offered in most supermarkets. Dine out and check menus for whole grain choices too.

Over the past five years, the number of whole grain products in the marketplace has tripled, with numbers rising from less than a hundred in 1999 to more than three hundred today.

To start gaining the benefits of whole grains, make the switch. Make sandwiches with a whole grain bread instead of white. Look for whole grain hamburger or hot dog buns. Choose hot rolls made with whole grains and look for biscuits in the dairy case that are made from whole grains. If the heavier consistency of whole grain flour seems too great, search for ultra refined whole grain flour which is milled to about the same consistency as familiar white flour.

Remember that labels that say “multi-grain” or “stone milled” do not mean a product is made with whole grains unless the words “whole grain” are present.

Look for heart healthy recipes that utilize whole grain flours in making breads and even cookies at home.

Remember that whole grains pack more than twice the vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients as white breads. Make a whole grain choice and reap the healthy benefits.

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