Whole grain goodness

The importance of eating whole grains for overall health and recommended daily servings.

Whole grains are grains that are in their natural, whole state. If the grain kernel has been cracked, crushed, rolled, extruded, lightly pearled and/or cooked, the grain should still have the same rich balance of nutrients and vitamins that are found in the original grain kernel or seed.

There are three parts that make a grain whole. The outer layer of the grain kernel is called the “bran,” which contains protein and fiber. The largest inner core of a grain kernel is called the “endosperm,” which is starchy. The third component, an inner core is called the “germ.” The germ contains vitamins and essential fatty acids and antioxidants. Most grains in stores are not whole, most are refined or processed. The processed or refined grains have only the starchy portion (the endosperm) of the grain intact. Examples of refined grains are white flour, enriched flour and white rice. Eating whole grain foods have a “whole bunch” of benefits.

Whole grains are rich in fiber, which helps to slow the absorption of sugars. This helps to slow the release of the sugars and the release of insulin. Whole grains have two to three times more vitamins and nutrients and have fewer calories than refined grains. Refined grains can be heavily laden, including white sugar and unhealthy fats (meaning more calories and fewer nutrients).

People often feel more full and satisfied for longer after eating whole grains because of their absorption rate. Foods in their whole state contain many nutrients, which often helps the food to assimilate better into the body, making one feel full more satisfied for longer periods of time.

Whole grains are known to reduce serious health risks such as heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, digestive related cancers and stokes. Children and teens who eat whole grains have a lower risk of obesity, diabetes, asthma and acne break outs and will feel fuller and more satisfied for a longer period of time.

Some examples of whole grains include: Amaranth, buckwheat, millet, quinoa, rye, wild rice, barley, corn (including whole cornmeal and popcorn), oats, brown rice, sorghum or milo and wheat (including varieties such as spelt, emmer, faro, einkorn, durum and forms such as bulgur, cracked wheat and wheat berries).

It is recommended for most adults to eat a total of six ounces of grains per day (2,000 calorie per day diet) making three of those ounces whole grain choices. Eating two slices of whole grain bread and a half cup of popcorn are examples of how to obtain the recommended three ounces of whole grains/day. Easy substitutions can be made by replacing half the white flour with whole grain flours in your regular recipes for cookies, muffins, quick breads and pancakes or waffles.

To make this all easier, the Whole Grain Council made up a packaging symbol called the Whole Grain Stamp that is located on whole grain foods. Look for the stamp on packages to be sure a food is actually a whole grain food. Another way is to read the ingredient list – find out more at www.WholeGrainsCouncil.org. If a whole grain is used, it will be listed as whole wheat, whole oats, whole rye, etc.

Michigan State University Extension offers nutrition classes to help individuals, families and seniors improve their overall health. Look for events in your community at www.msue.msu.edu.

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