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Articles Fitness Nutrition

The Nutrition of Whole Grain

According to the Mayo Clinic, whole grain foods are an essential part of a healthy diet. Grains are the seeds of different types of grasses that provide the human body with an array of nutrients and vitamins.

Whole grains come in a range of sizes, varying from small quinoa seeds to large popcorn kernels. These grains have the highest levels of antioxidants than any other plant-based nutrient.

Health Benefits of Whole Grains

All whole grains provide the body with complex carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals. Grains are naturally low in fat and have no cholesterol. Additionally, whole grains are a natural source of dietary fiber. Dietary fiber has shown to prevent constipation, lowering the risk of diabetes and reducing your changes of heart disease.

Additional health benefits of whole grains include lowering triglyceride levels, improving insulin control, helping with weight control and slowing the build-up of arterial plaque.

Nutritional Value of Whole Grain

A serving size for a whole grain equals one slice of whole wheat bread, ½ a cup of cooked pasta or ½ cup of brown rice. The United States Department of Agriculture recommends that adult women should eat a minimum of 3 servings of whole grains per day and recommend that women get up to 6 servings a day. 

A one-ounce serving of cooked quinoa has:

  • 34 calories
  • 1 g fat
  • 0 mg cholesterol
  • 2 mg sodium
  • 6g carbohydrates
  • 1 g fiber
  • 1 g protein

This serving provides the body with 2% of its daily-recommended value of iron.

A one-ounce serving of cooked brown rice has:

  • 31 calories
  • 0 g fat
  • 0 mg cholesterol
  • 1 mg sodium
  • 6 g carbohydrates
  • 1 g fiber
  • 1 g protein

This serving provides the body with12% of its daily-recommended value of iron. 

Whole Grains vs. Refined Grains

The difference between refined grains and whole grains is that whole grains contain the entire wheat grain, which includes the endosperm, bran and germ. Refined grains typically only have the endosperm.

Compared to refined grains, whole grains provide the body with increased levels of fiber, magnesium, potassium and selenium.

Types of Whole Grains

Excellent sources of whole grains include barley, brown rice, millet, bulgur or cracked wheat, buckwheat, popcorn, oats, whole wheat bread, whole wheat pasta, whole wheat cereals and wild rice.

To be sure a food is composed of whole grains, check the label and make sure the word “whole” appears with a grain in the first few ingredients on the list. Furthermore, most servings of a whole grain food should have at least 3g of dietary fiber per serving.

Increasing Whole Grains in Your Diet

To maximize the health benefits of this nutritious food, you may want to consider making the following switches in your diet. Suggestions include having a whole-grain, high-fiber cereal for breakfast, using whole wheat bread, whole-grain bagels, or whole-wheat tortillas at lunch time and replace white rice and pasta with brown rice, kasha, wild rice or whole-grain pasta.

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