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Happy Whole Grains Month!

In honor of national whole grains month, we’re celebrating all things whole grain.

grainWhat is a whole grain anyway? A whole grain is made up of all the components of the grain: germ + endosperm + bran. A refined grain has had one or more of these parts removed (typically germ and bran), making it no longer “whole”.

And while many refined products are fortified with vitamins and minerals, we’re better off choosing whole grains because they usually have more fiber and lots of nutrients our bodies need.

It isn’t always possible to eat only whole grain, so the 2015 Dietary Guidelines recommend we make at least half of our grain choices whole. That’s doable, right?

Now that I’ve convinced you, how do you know you’re really getting whole grain? Read the label!

  • Look for “100% whole” before the grain name (i.e 100% whole wheat or 100% whole grain barley)
  • In packaged foods, make sure whole grains are the first ingredient. And don’t forget to read the rest of the label – the other ingredients in that food matter too! If you don’t recognize an ingredient, {ask me} about it!
  • This may seem obvious but, for single ingredient foods (i.e. brown rice or oats), it may not say “100%” but typically will say “whole”. Since it is the only ingredient in the product, 100% is implied!

And watch out for those “healthy” fake out words marketers love to use. Here’s how to spot them:

  • Multi-Grain: doesn’t mean all (or any) of the grain is whole, just that there are more than one
  • 100% Wheat: may be 100% whole wheat or simply just made of all wheat, some or all of which could be refined
  • Stone Ground: a fluffy term that really doesn’t mean anything. Makes it sound artisanal and homemade doesn’t it? Read the ingredient statement.
  • “Made with” or “Contains” Whole Grain: just because it contains whole grains doesn’t make it a wholesome product. You can have a high fat high sugar cookie that ‘contains’ whole grains. Again, read the label.

Bonus Tips:

*Choose whole grains when preparing foods at home. Many of us eat meals out or have to grab a quick bite during a busy day and whole grains are often not an option. By sticking to this rule, it will be much easier to meet the “make half of your grains whole grains” recommendation.

*To celebrate whole grains month, try a whole grain you’ve never tried before. Some ideas of more rare whole grains: spelt, farro, kamut, millet, sorghum, wild rice. You can typically find these in the market next to rice or the bulk aisle if your grocer has one.