Recently we have seen everywhere we go that whole grains have become such an important part of our diet and are better for us than bleached flour and grains. You may wonder why this is the case. As the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Food and Drug Administration recommends, we should try to make half of our grains whole grains. I want to share some of the benefits of whole grains vs. non whole grain items.

First of all, let’s look at the benefits of whole grains and why they are better for us then bleached grains. Having a diet rich in whole grains can help reduce the risk of heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and some cancers as well as regulate bowel movement. This is the case because whole grains contain vitamins and nutrients such as fiber, vitamin B, antioxidants, and minerals such as iron and zinc unlike bleached non-whole grains.

You may wonder why whole grains contain these benefits and non-whole grains do not. This is because whole grains have all of their parts and have not been stripped down of their nutrients. Bleached and enriched non-whole grains have been processed and have had layers removed from their kernel which makes them less nutrient dense.  The concept “bleached” is written on nutrition labels to show that the kernel has been stripped down. Below is an image of a whole grain and the parts it contains. As you can see it has an endosperm, bran, and the germ that make up its kernel. In bleached non-whole grains, the bran is removed, thus removing the nutrients associated with it.

When reading a nutrition label at the store, here are some key ingredients to look for that let you know that the item contains 100% whole grains. These include wholegrain corn, whole oats and oatmeal, brown rye, whole rye, wholegrain barley, buckwheat, and millet. Ways to incorporate whole grains into your diet include selecting whole grain breads, bagels, and crackers, making your snacks whole grain snacks, using whole grain rice and pastas in your dishes, and creating a diet that contains a variety of grains. Adding these simple ways to your every day diet can help reduce the risk of diseases and receive the beneficial nutrients from the wholegrain.

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