TACOMA, WA, UNITED STATES
By 1st Lt. Jacqueline Garcia, dietetic intern
Do you have all the information on whole grains? Some may not know that half of their grains should be whole grains. Grains can be whole or refined. There is a big nutritional difference between whole and refined grains. Take a minute to make sure you are in the know.
Whole grains contain a bran, germ, and endosperm. The bran and germ contain most of the antioxidants, vitamins, and fiber. Unfortunately, these parts of the grain are coarse.
When a whole grain goes through food processing, the bran and germ are removed leaving only the endosperm. The endosperm is mostly starchy carbohydrate. When only the endosperm is left, the byproducts are softer.
Although research shows refined grains are a more palatable product, refined grains are not as nutrient or fiber dense as whole grains and are partly to blame for Americans’ continued failure to eat recommended amounts of fiber.
According to Dietary Guidelines for Americans, Americans only consume about half of the recommended amount of dietary fiber per day. Fiber, which is a nondigestible plant component, has many health benefits.
Research has shown that fiber:
– May decrease the risk of heart disease.
– Slows down absorption of carbohydrates making it essential in lowering blood sugar in diabetics.
– Promotes gut health because it can hold water which prevents constipation.
– Feeds the healthy bacteria in your gut which helps your digestive system work smoothly.
– Fiber can help people feel fuller, making it easier to control weight gain or promote weight loss.
Since whole grains are high in fiber and other nutrients, the U.S, Department of Agriculture’s dietary guidelines – found at: www.dietaryguidelines.gov – recommend Americans consume 85g of whole grain products per day. One serving of whole grains is 16g of whole grain ingredients. That means you should have about five servings of whole grains per day.
Examples of single servings of whole grains include one half cup of cooked whole grain pasta, a half cup of cooked brown rice, one slice of whole grain bread, one ounce of uncooked popcorn, or a half cup of cooked oatmeal.
The good news is that increasing whole grains in your diet is easy to do.
Whole wheat is a common whole grain, however there are many more options available. To verify that a bread is whole grain, be sure to look at the nutrition label and make sure whole grain flour is listed as the first ingredient. Also, be sure to check that there is at least 2g of fiber per serving. You may also try breads made from rye, flax, buckwheat, amaranth, bulgur wheat, millet or even a whole grain sour dough. Additionally, you can try cooking a whole wheat pasta. Try these options to slowly add more whole grains to your diet:
– Spaghetti made with half regular pasta and half whole wheat pasta.
– Make your own popcorn at home. Just three cups of fresh popcorn have 4g of fiber and only 100 calories. Season it to your preference and bring it as a light snack for work.
– Oats are another whole grain that are rich in fiber and very versatile. They can be used in homemade muffins, overnight oats, and oatmeal or even added to pancake mix.
– Try switching out white rice for brown rice or quinoa.
Making just a couple of these easy substitutions to meet your fiber and whole grain recommendation can make a noticeable difference in your health.
All in all, the opportunities to increase whole grain and fiber intake are endless.