Grains are the seeds of a wide variety of plants and grasses (such as maize, wheat and rye), which are cultivated for food. All types of grains are good sources of complex carbohydrates, various vitamins and minerals, and are naturally low in fat.
But grains that haven’t been refined — called whole grains — are better for you. Whole grains haven’t had their bran and germ removed by milling, making them better sources of fiber and other important nutrients, such as selenium, potassium and magnesium.Refined grains, such as white rice or white flour, have both the bran and germ removed during the milling process. Milling gives the grains a finer texture and improves their shelf life, but it also removes dietary fiber, iron and many B vitamins. Although vitamins and minerals are added back into refined grains after the milling process (such food products are called “enriched”), refined grains still don’t have as many nutrients as whole grains do, and they don’t provide as much fiber.
Government guidelines recommend that you eat at least three servings of whole grains a day. An easy way to get whole grains in your diet is to eat whole-grain or whole-wheat bread.
But not all whole-grain breads are created equal. Make sure yours is the real deal by reading the label.
According to the Food and Drug Administration, whole-grain products must contain a least 51 percent whole grains by weight. As such, “whole grain” or “whole wheat” should be first on the package’s ingredient list. If the list doesn’t have “whole grain” or “whole wheat” as the first ingredient, the bread isn’t entirely whole grain. (Some food products are made from mixtures of whole grains and refined grains.)
Relatively new to the market is white whole-wheat bread. White whole-wheat bread looks and tastes like white bread but has the same nutritional benefits as regular whole-wheat or whole-grain bread. The difference between white whole wheat and regular whole wheat is in the type of wheat used. Regular whole-wheat bread is made with red wheat, which is dark in color and has a slightly bitter taste. White whole-wheat bread is made with an albino variety of wheat, which is lighter in color and has a sweeter, milder flavor. Again, read the packaging label to make sure “whole wheat” is first on the ingredient list.
Other examples of whole grains:
Bulgur (cracked wheat)
Examples of refined grains:
Enriched macaroni or spaghetti
White bread (refined)
You can boost your intake of whole grains by adding them to some of your recipes. Try using unsweetened, whole-grain, ready-to-eat cereal as a coating for “oven-fried” chicken or fish dishes; substitute oatmeal for breadcrumbs when mixing meatloaf; use brown rice in stuffed vegetable dishes, such as stuffed cabbage, sweet peppers or tomatoes; feature wild rice or barley in soups, stews, casseroles or salads.