Grain products, such as bread, rice, pasta, oatmeal, cereal, and tortillas, are generally low in fat and provide fiber, carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals, and some phytochemicals. Most of the foods we eat are refined grains (eg, white bread, white rice, pasta, pretzels). Refined grains do not contain as many nutrients as whole grains.
A whole grain is the entire edible portion of a grain. A whole grain includes three parts, each with a valuable store of nutrients:
White flour, which is the base of many of our foods, is made by refining whole grains. During the refining process, most or all of the bran and germ are removed. White flour that has been enriched has certain nutrients added to it: iron and some B vitamins (including folate). However, many other nutrients are lost, these include:
Whole grains are a healthier choice because the ingredients they contain may help to lower the risk of many chronic diseases, including heart disease, diabetes, and obesity. Soluble fiber (found in oats and barley) can lower cholesterol levels.
It is easy to get plenty of serving of grains everyday. The amount of servings an adult needs varies depending on age and activity level. The requirements range from about 5-8 servings. One serving is equal to:
At least half of the grains you eat should be whole grains. The trickiest part about eating whole grains is figuring out which grains truly are whole. To do this, check the ingredient label. The product is a whole grain if the first ingredient is whole wheat or oatmeal. Do not be fooled by brown breads, some are dyed to be that color. Also, a food label that reads "wheat bagel," "stoned wheat," or "seven grain" is not necessarily "whole grain."
The following are whole grains:
American Dietetic Association
US Department of Agriculture
Canada's Food Guide
Dietitians of Canada
Dash diet. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://ebscohost/dynamed. Updated August 26, 2011. Accessed June 2, 2012.
Food groups: How many grain foods are needed daily? USDA's MyPlate.gov website. Available at: http://www.choosem.... Accessed Updated June 4, 2011. June 12, 2012.
Food groups: What counts as an ounce equivalent of grains? USDA's MyPlate.gov website. Available at: http://www.choosem.... Accessed Updated June 4, 2011. June 12, 2012.
Whole grains. United States Department of Agriculture website. Available at: http://healthymeals.nal.usda.gov/resource-library/whole-grains. Accessed June 2, 2012.
Whole grains and fiber. American Heart Association website. Available at: http://www.heart.o.... Updated January 24, 2011. Accessed June 2, 2012.
Last reviewed June 2012 by Brian Randall, MD
Last Updated: 6/12/2012