“Whole grain” has been a buzzword in the nutritional world recently, but what exactly is a whole grain? What makes whole grains so special? Since September is Whole Grains Month, Lightsey Jett, a registered dietitian nutritionist with Palmetto Health-USC Orthopedic Center, answers some questions about this new hot topic.
What are whole grains?
Whole grains contain the entire grain kernel which is made up of three parts: the bran, the endosperm, and the germ. With all three layers, whole grains are high in fiber and contain nutrients such as B vitamins, iron, copper, and healthy fats.
What is a refined grain?
A refined grain is a whole grain that is milled to produce a finer texture and a longer shelf life. During the milling process, parts of the bran and germ layers are removed, resulting in a loss of dietary fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Refined grains are often enriched, meaning certain vitamins and iron are added back after processing. The enriching process does not, however, add back the fiber and other health promoting components originally found in the whole grain.
What are the health benefits of eating whole grains?
Whole grains are high in fiber, so eating whole grains rather than refined grains can improve digestive health and help with weight control. Whole grains are also natural sources of vitamins and minerals that are important in a variety of ways. For example: iron is used to carry oxygen to the blood, selenium helps improve the immune system, and folate, one of the B vitamins, can prevent certain birth defects.
How to shop for whole grains?
When grocery shopping, look on the ingredients list for the word “whole” (as in whole wheat, whole rye, and whole-grain cornmeal), or other whole grains such as oatmeal, brown rice, or wild rice. Beware: phrases like multi-grain, 100% wheat, cracked wheat, or bran may not actually contain any whole grains.
How can I incorporate whole grains into my daily diet?
Incorporating whole grains can be fun! Try integrating whole grains into your typical dishes by stuffing bell peppers with brown rice, using whole wheat noodles in lasagna and spaghetti, adding barley to vegetable soups, using 100% whole wheat flour tortillas for tacos and burritos, or adding bulgur wheat to stir-fries. You can also replace your breakfast cereals with 100% whole grain cereal flakes, and snack on air popped popcorn and whole wheat crackers in the place of their refined counterparts.
For more information about Palmetto Health-USC Orthopedic Center, visit PHUSCMG.org/Orthopedics or call 803-907-0350.