Why You Should Go Whole Grain

by Jo-Ann Heslin, MA, RD, CDN on March 28, 2012 · 0 comments

One simple change in your diet can reap some pretty big results. Eating whole grains every day reduces your risk for diabetes, cancer, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and will keep you slimmer. Impressed? You should be. This is one of the easiest food switches you can make. It’s hard to get people to eat more fruits and vegetables. Some refuse to give up their favorite fatty foods or desserts, but switching from white bread to whole wheat bread isn’t that big of a step and it will yield impressive health benefits.

So, exactly what is a whole grain you’re thinking? In the past health messages have focused on eating more fiber, but fiber is only part of what comes wrapped in whole grain. A whole grain is the entire grain seed, called a kernel, made up of 3 parts: bran, germ and endosperm. All parts of the whole grain kernel offer valuable nutrients.

The germ is the embryo of the kernel which can sprout into a new plant. The endosperm is the largest part of the kernel made up of protein and carbohydrate. It provides food for the germ to grow. The bran is the outer protective layer of the kernel made up mostly of fiber.

Eating bran provides fiber and minerals. Eating the endosperm gives you protein and carbohydrates. Eating the germ gives you vitamins, minerals and healthy fats. Eating the entire grain gives you the full benefit of all three. White bread is made from flour from just the endosperm of the kernel. Whole wheat bread is made from flour from the entire wheat kernel.

Did you know that eating popcorn in front of the TV counts? Popcorn, oatmeal, brown rice, barley, wheatberries, and whole wheat bread, cereal and pasta are all excellent whole grain sources. It isn’t hard to get 3 servings a day. One serving equals: 1 slice whole grain bread, 1 cup whole grain cereal, ½ cup whole grain hot cereal, ½ cup whole wheat pasta, ½ cup cooked whole grain (any variety) or 3 cups of popcorn. A dish of pasta at dinner or a bowl of cereal for breakfast can satisfy most of your servings for the day.

For the diehard white bread fans there is a whole wheat white flour made from a variety of wheat that is tan or golden in color rather than the darker brown of regular whole wheat. It is very common in Australia and becoming more so in the U.S. It’s 100% whole wheat containing the bran, germ and endosperm, but has a milder flavor and texture than nutty tasting, chewier whole wheat.

Bottom line: Aim for 3 whole grains a day.

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