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Multigrain vs. Whole Wheat: What's the Difference?

Jun 21, 2010

Every wondered what the difference is between multigrain foods and whole wheat foods? Both of these foods provide the body with numerous health benefits. Read below to learn about these two healthy starches.

Multigrain Foods

Multigrain refers to a food that contains more than one type of grain. Common grains included in multigrain foods include oats, buckwheat, cracked wheat, flax and millet. While some multigrain food may include whole grain ingredients, the term multigrain does not necessarily ensure that the food contains whole grain ingredients. Unless specifically stated as having whole grains, ingredients could be either whole grain or refined grains.

Multigrain foods often have between three to five different types of grains but can have up to 12 different types of grains. These foods are often very hearty and provide a dense texture and rich flavor to breads, cookies or cereals.

Health Benefits of Multigrain Foods

Unless you are sure that a multigrain food is created from whole grain ingredients, the grain health benefits of this food may be minimal.

To maximize your health benefits of a multigrain food, look at the food label and make sure that the grains all include the word ‘whole’. This ensures that the grains in this food are all whole grains. A quick way to see if the food contains refined grains is to look for the words ‘enriched wheat flour’ near the top of the ingredient list. This would mean that the multigrain food is not composed entirely of whole grains and has limited health benefits compared to whole grain foods.

Be warned that many multigrain foods include significant amounts of enriched wheat flour combined with small amounts of several whole grains.

Common sources of multigrain foods include breads, cold cereals, hot cereals, tortillas, rolls, waffles, chips crackers and baking flours.

Whole Wheat Foods

Whole wheat refers to the whole wheat grain. To be considered whole wheat, a grain must still contain the endosperm, bran and germ. Many processed or refined version of wheat contain only the endosperm.

Health Benefits of Whole Wheat Foods

Whole wheat is beneficial to the body because it can help prevent heart disease, reduce the risk of Type 2 Diabetes and reduce your chances of certain cancers, in particular colon cancer.

Whole wheat is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin B and fiber. Fiber has shown to help individuals lose weight.

The Mayo Clinic recommends that adults eat at least 3 one-ounce servings of whole grains a day. The United States Department of Agriculture states that women should have a minimum of 3 oz a day and recommends that women get up to 6 oz of whole grains per day.

At most grocery stores, you will be able to find whole wheat breads, whole wheat pastas, whole wheat cereals, whole wheat tortilla, whole wheat chips and whole wheat flours.

Which is Better: Multigrains or Whole Wheat Foods?

As explained above, multigrain and whole wheat foods are two separate types of grain products. In regards to your health, whole wheat foods provide your body with more nutrients, fiber and vitamins than most multigrain products.

When selecting a multigrain, make sure it is composed of whole grains to reap the health benefits provided by whole grain foods.

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