Benefits of Whole Grains

Health, Home & Family
on October 30, 2005

Increasing the amount of whole grains in your diet can lower cholesterol, reduce diabetes risk and trim your waistline. That’s because whole grains contain valuable vitamins and minerals that are removed when grains are processed, says Karen Purvis, a registered dietician in Mandeville, La. (pop. 10,489).

“Eating whole grains provides a wide range of nutritional benefits,” Purvis says. “The body processes whole grains more slowly. They are digested more slowly, so you feel full longer and blood sugar levels are stabilized. Whole grains also contain vitamins, protein and nutrients that have been eliminated from refined grain such as white flour.”

New guidelines

New nutritional guidelines from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration recommend that adults eat three to five servings of whole grains daily. Yet, 30 percent of Americans eat no whole grains at all. Whole grains include wheat, corn, rice, oats, barley, quinoa, sorghum, spelt and rye that has not been processed or refined.

Unlike foods made with white flour or processed grains, whole grain foods contain the entire plant seed. The outer skin or bran is high in antioxidants, B vitamins and fiber. The germ—the embryo of the seed—is high in vitamins, minerals and healthy fats, and contains some protein. The center of the seed, known as the endosperm, contains starchy carbohydrates, proteins, and few vitamins and minerals.

Refining removes the bran and germ which make up 25 percent of the grain’s protein and more than 15 key nutrients. “Once grains have been processed, they lack many of the vitamins and minerals we need,” Purvis says. To increase the whole grains in your diet, she recommends:

• Substituting half the white flour with whole wheat flour, or up to 20 percent of another whole grain flour such as sorghum, in recipes for cookies, muffins, quick breads and pancakes.

• Adding half a cup of cooked bulgur, wild rice or barley to bread stuffing.

• Putting half of a cup of cooked wheat or rye berries, wild rice, brown rice, sorghum or barley into canned or homemade soups.

• Making corn cakes, corn breads and corn muffins with whole corn meal.

• Preparing risottos, pilafs and other rice-like dishes with barley, brown rice, bulgur, millet, quinoa or sorghum.

• Buying only bread and cereal that have a whole grain listed first as an ingredient on the product label.

• Using whole grain pasta.

• Snacking on air-popped popcorn.