Embracing whole grains
Many studies, according to the American Society for Nutrition, have shown that consuming at least three servings per day of whole grains has increased health benefits, including lowering the risk of chronic diseases such as: Type 2 diabetes by 21-30 percent, heart disease by 25-28 percent and stroke by 30-36 percent.
It does not end there. Other benefits include better weight maintenance, reduced risk of inflammatory diseases, healthier carotid arteries, reduced risk of asthma, lower risk of colorectal cancer, healthier blood pressure levels and lower incidence of gum disease and tooth loss.
How to identify whole grains
Look for phrases such as whole grain, whole wheat or whole other grain, stone-ground whole grain, brown rice, wheat berries and oats or oatmeal, which includes instant and old-fashioned. These all contain portions of the grain thus providing ultimate health benefits.
Do not be confused by descriptions such as enriched flour, degerminated (corn meal), bran and wheat germ. They do not describe whole grains and do not have the same benefits. Other words like wheat, multigrain or durum might appear on whole grain food labels but do not guarantee the product is whole grain or a refined grain. Look for the word “whole” as the first ingredient on the label. Keep in mind that if the second ingredient is listed as whole grain, there may be as little as 1 percent or as much as 49 percent whole grains according to The Whole Grains Council.
The Whole Grains Council created an official symbol that can help you find real whole grain products. This symbol makes it easy to identify healthful choices but may not be on all products. For example, if the product label says “100% whole wheat” you can trust these statements to be true.
Gluten-free whole grains
Millions of people who have celiac disease can enjoy a variety of other grains. Gluten is the protein in wheat and other grains such as barley, rye, triticale and oats. Be aware that while oats are gluten-free, they are frequently contaminated with wheat during processing. Look for pure and uncontaminated oat products.
Gluten free grains include Amaranth, buckwheat, corn, millet, montina (otherwise known as Indian rice grass), quinoa, rice, sorghum, teff and wild rice.
Recommended dietary guidelines
Dietary guidelines for whole grains vary according to age and activity level. Generally, all Americans should consume at least half or more of their grains as “whole.” That means eating approximately 3-6 servings of whole grains each day for everyone 9 years old and up.
What counts as a serving?
You can count whole grains as 16 grams of whole grain ingredients or approximately one and a half tablespoons according to The Whole Grain Council. Examples include:
½ cup cooked brown rice or other cooked grain
½ cup cooked 100 percent whole grain pasta
1 ounce uncooked whole grain pasta, brown rice or other grain
1 slice 100 percent whole grain bread
1 very small 100 percent whole grain muffin (1oz)
1 cup 100 percent whole grain ready-to-eat cereal
Easy ways to enjoy whole grains
Substitute half white flour with whole wheat flour in recipes such as muffins, cookies, bread and pancakes. Be brave and add up to 20 percent of another whole grain flour such as sorghum.
Add half a cup of cooked bulgur, wild rice or barley to bread stuffing.
Replace a portion of the flour in a recipe with quick or old-fashioned oats.
Stir a half cup of rolled oats in your yogurt to add a bit of crunch.
Explore new foods
Buy whole grain pasta or a blend of part whole grain and part white. Make risottos, pilafs and other rice-like dishes with whole grains such as barley, bulgur, millet and others as mentioned above.
Try whole grain breads especially the whole grain pita bread that children will enjoy.
Look for cereals like kamut, kasha or spelt.