Recently, whole grains have received a lot of attention – but what is the difference between whole and refined grains and what makes one healthier than the other?
Refined grains differ from whole grains in that the bran and germ portion of the grain are mechanically removed. The bran and germ contain most of the protein, fiber, B vitamins, vitamin E, minerals, and phytonutrients that make grains so healthy in the first place.
The high fiber content of whole grains is associated with lower BMI and lower risk of hypertension, stroke, heart disease, diabetes, and certain types of cancers, including colorectal cancer.
The vitamin E, minerals, and phytonutrients contained in whole grains act as antioxidants, which prevent against disease and help maintain overall health. Studies of elderly people have shown that as part of a healthy diet including fruits and vegetables, whole grains are linked with lower rates of all-cause mortality.
Eat more whole grains
- Switch out your normal bread for whole wheat or rye bread.
- Substitute brown rice for white rice.
- Swap whole wheat pasta for regular pasta.
- Try eating oatmeal for breakfast.
- Add bran or oatmeal to your smoothies.
- Add bran or oatmeal when you’re baking cookies or muffins.
- Barley, bulgur, and quinoa make good white rice alternatives and can even be used in soups instead of noodles.
- When buying bread or pasta at the grocery store, look for key phrases such as “Whole Wheat” or “Whole Grain.” To be sure that you are getting a good source, be sure to glance at the ingredient list to make sure that at least one of the whole grain ingredients mentioned above are at the top of the ingredient list.
- Avoid refined whole grain products by reading the Nutrition Facts label. Breads should have at least 3 grams of dietary fiber per serving and pastas and cereals should have at least 5 grams of dietary fiber per serving. This will help you decipher whether you are really getting a 100% whole grain product.
It’s easy once you know what to look for! Go for the grain!
For lots of whole grain recipes, try The Meals to Heal Cookbook.
Borneo, Rafael, and Alberto Edel Leon. “Whole Grain Cereals: Functional Components and Health Beneﬁts.” Food & Function 3 (2012): 110-19.
Jonnalagadda, Satya S., Lisa Harnack, Rui Hai Liu, Nicola McKeown, Chris Seal, Simin Liu, and George C. Fahey. “Putting the Whole Grain Puzzle Together: Health Benefits Associated with Whole Grains-Summary of American Society for Nutrition 2010 Satellite Symposium.” Journal of Nutrition 141.5 (2011): 1011S-022S.
Lattimer, James M., and Mark D. Haub. “Effects of Dietary Fiber and Its Components on Metabolic Health.” Nutrients 2.12 (2010): 1266-289