Food mysteries – Part 1: Exploring grains

Wheat, corn, rice, oats, rye and barley are some of the common grains people eat. Let’s explore the science and mysteries of grains.

Grains such as wheat, corn, rice, oats, rye and barley are an important part of our diet. Seeds from grain plants are milled, or processed so we can use them, such as how flour is made from milled wheat and corn is ground into corn meal. These milled grains are then used to make bread, spaghetti and breakfast cereal.

Carbohydrates are one of the essential nutrients our body needs because carbohydrates supply the body with energy. Foods with grains are high in carbohydrates. Whole grain foods are also a good source of fiber. Fiber is important because it helps speed up the passage of food through the digestive tract.

There are three parts to most grains. Bran is the outer protective layer. The bran contains fiber, B vitamins and minerals. Endosperm, which is the largest part of a grain, contains starch and protein. The third part is the smallest part, called the germ. It contains fat, protein, B vitamins, vitamin E and minerals.

When milled, grain products like white bread, macaroni and rice are made, and the bran and germ are removed. That means those nutrients found in the bran and germ are also removed. The term used to describe products like this are cell-enriched because the nutrients are lost during milling.

A fun thing to do with your kids is to look at grains in your home and see if you can find any that are enriched. See what it says on the label for ingredients. Look for the amount of fiber in it as well.

According to the USDA Dietary Guidelines, youth and adults age 9 years and older should be getting three to five servings of whole grains daily.

To learn more about healthy eating and ways to keep kids active, visit your local Michigan State University Extension county office.

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