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Understanding What Whole Grain is

A product can be labeled  "whole grain" if it is made from the entire cereal grain. This means that the bran and germ, as well as the endosperm, are present. Grains that have been refined by stripping the bran and germ from them wind up with only the endosperm left. Unfortunately, the bran and germ is where most of the nutrients reside in grains. Some well known whole grains include:

  • Barley
  • Brown rice
  • Maize
  • Oat
  • Rye
  • Wheat
  • Rolled oats
  • Whole wheat flour
  • Whole wheat bread
  • Whole wheat pasts

Looking at Labels

The easiest way to know that something is made with whole grain is to look for the Whole Grain Council stamp. Beyond that, you need to read the ingredients label. The first listed ingredient should be whole wheat. Also, if you see the word "enriched", the product is likely not made from whole grain. By the way, deciding between products by comparing the coloring will not work. Many refined products have add food coloring and/or molasses to make the product look like it is made from whole grain.

According to the federal government, the following names indicate whole grain items:

  • Whole wheat bread
  • Whole wheat buns
  • Whole wheat macaroni
  • Whole wheat spaghetti
  • Whole wheat flour
  • Cracked wheat (as an ingredient not as part of the name of the product)
  • Crushed wheat
  • Graham flour (as an ingredient not as part of the name of the product)
  • Entire wheat flour
  • Whole durum flour

If two ingredients are listed but only the second one is listed as whole grain, the product may actually only contain between 1 percent and 49 percent whole grain. Also, a product can be made with whole grain ingredients, but if the whole grain ingredients are not the predominant ingredient, then the product can not be called a whole grain product.

Health Benefits of Whole Grain

Regular consumption of whole grains can lower your LDL (bad) cholesterol and triglyceride levels, which will lessen your risks for developing heart disease. Also, increased whole grain consumption has been linked to lower instances of diabetes and obesity. Keeping grains as close to their natural state as possible slows down the digestion of starch which can prevent blood sugar spikes. Spikes in your blood sugar that occur repeatedly can lead to insulin resistance and lead to diabetes.

One of the easiest food choices you can make is to choose whole grain instead of old fashioned white grain products. The health benefits include lowering your risk of heart disease. In fact, increasing your whole grain consumption has been proven to lower your risk of heart disease by 26 percent. More whole grains in your diet can also lower your risk of obesity and therefore type II diabetes. Type II diabetes is also called adult onset diabetes and is closely linked with being overweight.

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