According to the USDA’s 2010 Dietary Guidelines Americans should be eating at least three daily servings of whole grains. Whole grains are super-nutritious. They’re high in fiber, vitamins and minerals, and tasty! Including them in your diet may help with weight control, reduce the risk of illnesses such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease, and help lower cholesterol, too.
For a grain to qualify as “whole” it must contain all three parts of the kernel: the endosperm, germ, and bran. Grains that are not 100 percent whole grain typically have the bran and the germ removed during the refining process, leaving only the endosperm intact. The problem is, when the bran and germ are missing about 25 percent of the protein is lost along with at least 17 key nutrients. That’s why a slice of processed white bread has only a fraction of the nutrition you’d get eating a slice of whole grain or multi grain bread.
Just because a product says it contains grains does not mean it contains whole grains. Here are some ways to know the difference:
Read the nutrition facts label
Look on packaging for the Whole Grains Council seal or check the ingredients list for the words 100 percent whole wheat, whole grain, whole wheat, oats, brown rice, or wheat berries. If the word “whole” is included in the first ingredient you know you are getting a whole grain product. If “whole” appears after the second ingredient then the product may only contain from one percent to 49 percent whole grains.
Keep in mind some grains pack more nutrition than others so given a choice go with what’s even better. For example:
Choose pearl barley over brown rice
Both are whole grains, but a serving of pearl barley contains more fiber, iron, potassium, and folate. Opt for barley and you’ll save about 10 calories per serving and get an extra 4 grams of healthy belly-filling fiber!
Go for steel cut oats instead of rolled oats
The difference is in the processing. Rolled oats end up as thin flakes whereas steel cut oats become thick chopped pieces that digest more slowly so you feel fuller and energized longer.
Pick 100 percent whole grain bread over whole wheat bread
One brand contains“100 percent whole grain” and the other has “100 percent whole wheat.” Go with the one that lists whole grain as its first ingredient because it has more protein, healthy fiber, vitamins and minerals than the “whole wheat” variety.
For more tips, delicious high fiber meal plans, recipes, and proven ways to lose weight and look great, check out my book The Miracle Carb Diet: Make Calories and Fat Disappear – with Fiber!
Tanya Zuckerbrot MS, RD, is a registered dietitian in New York City and author of the Miracle Carb Diet: Make Calories and Fat Disappear – with fiber as well as the bestselling F-Factor Diet. Follow Tanya on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, and visit her website Ffactor.com.