Friday, May 11, 2007

Whole Grains.... Fact or Fad?

We hear so much about the health benefits of eating whole grains. Is this a fact, or a fad?

In order to answer that question, we need to understand what whole grains are, what are their potential health benefits, and how do we find them in the supermarket?

What are whole grains?
A whole grain is a grain that retains all it's healthy parts. The 3 parts are the bran (the outer shell), the endosperm (the starchy inner portion) and the germ (the nutrient rich portion). Common whole grains include whole wheat, oatmeal, popcorn, brown rice, flour, sprouted grains and whole wheat bread. Refined grains, such as white bread, do not have bran or germ so they have less nutrients. Most U.S. grain products fall into this category.

What are their potential health benefits?
Only recently has whole wheat grain been found to be a factor in reducing the risk of chronic disease, including the risk of heart disease, some cancers, and diabetes. It may even play a role in obesity prevention. Whole grains are high-fiber foods packed with vitamins and minerals.

How do we find them in the supermarket?
Look for grain as the first ingredient: the word "whole" before the grain is imperative. Color is NOT a sign of whole grain. Brown may come from caramel coloring, molasses, or other ingredients. Cheerios, for example, are not brown, yet they are whole-grain!

The next time you go shopping, look for whole grain in your pasta, cereal and breads. Give it a try! You may be surprised, and your health will definitely benefit from it!

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