Healthy Habits: The Whole Grain Hype
The human body needs energy to perform even the smallest of daily tasks. This comes in the form of calories we get from food. One source of energy is through carbohydrates: sugars and starches. Starches include starchy vegetables, grains, rice, breads and cereals.
The majority of the processed foods consumed today are made with refined grains. Basically, a kernel of grain is stripped from its layers of bran and germ and is left with a naked endosperm. Iron, B vitamins and folic acid get added back into the flour in the milling process. This is commonly seen as the first ingredient on a food label as “enriched flour”.
Refined grains offer a longer shelf life for food products with little nutritive value. The lack of nutrition, paired with the rise in obesity and diabetes, has increased the hype and desire for whole grains over the past decade. Whole grains, when processed into flour, or used whole, include 100% of the original kernel-including all the bran, germ, and endosperm.
One misconception many people have is the difference between multi-grain and whole grain. Multi-grain does NOTmean that the grains used are whole grain. This just means the product is made from multiple types of grains (wheat, corn, barley, etc.…), but those grains may be refined. You would have to read your ingredient label to see if the label reads “whole” or if the label reads “enriched”.
Eating whole grain foods and products made with whole grains are more nutrient dense. The bran contains fiber, antioxidants, and B vitamins. The germ contains healthy fats and some protein, and the endosperm contains starch, some protein, vitamins and minerals. Whole grains are complex carbohydrates taking your body longer to break down into sugar than refined grains. This is a good thing! This keeps you feeling full longer and keeps your cravings to a minimum.
Incorporating whole grain products into your healthy eating plan can be simple and affordable. Reading the food labels is the best way to start. Don’t be afraid to try out new grains and make substitutions for traditional white flour and white rice. And just a friendly reminder…. because whole grain flours include the germ, they go rancid more quickly. They will last longer if you refrigerate them.
Examples of Whole Grains(*pseudo-grains)
Wheat Berries, Einkorn, Emmer/Farro, Kamut, Spelt
Ways to incorporate whole grains into your diet:
Replace 1/3 of flour in a recipe with quick oats or old-fashioned oats
Switch half white flour to whole wheat flour in regular recipes for cookies, muffins, quick breads & pancakes
Use ¾ cup uncooked oats for each pound ground beef or turkey when making meatballs, burgers or meatloaf
Stir rolled oats into yogurt for a quick crunch with no cooking necessary
This week’s Healthy Habit: Make half of your daily intake of grains, whole grains.