Whole Grains: The whole picture

Whole grains are supposed to make up three to five servings of everyone’s diet, but can anyone honestly say that they are meeting that requirement?  In fact, the average American doesn’t make the cut for even one serving of whole grains and over 40% don’t include whole grains in their diet at all.  So with quite a bit chunk of the population not getting adequate supply, let’s see what we can do to increase this.  It wouldn’t be fair for me to tell you to eat whole grains when I myself lack in fulfilling my requirements, but when I found out what the payoffs were I knew that I had to share this with you.  The chances of getting hypertension (chronic high-blood pressure), heart disease, and type II diabetes all decrease by at least 20% if you can work whole grains in your daily diet.  If any of you are concerned about losing weight, get a load of this: Eating whole grains can lower abdominal fat, make you feel fuller, and reduce the risk of obesity.  The risks of asthma, colon cancer, and breast cancer may all be reduced by having more whole grains in your diet.

So what are we looking for when it comes to “whole” grains? (Like the concept of replacing all your favorite sides like potatoes, rice, stuffing, and boxed fettuccine with something, *pause* ‘healthy, isn’t a shock enough) Look for products that list “whole” in the first couple of  ingredients,  not refined or white.  Refined grains, including white bread and white rice have most of the nutrients taken out during the breaking-down process.  By choosing the “whole-grain” versions of rice, pastas, cereals, and flour you are doing your health a great service.  Also doing you a great service is the Whole Grains Council who makes it easier for you to identify products made with at least half a serving of whole grains by putting an approved whole grain sticker on that looks like this:

This label lets you know how much grams of whole grains per serving there is and if there is 100% listed on the stamp, it is a safe bet that there is no refined grain and at least one complete serving of whole grains.

Also look for at least three grams of dietary fiber on the ingredients list on the package.  This will ensure that you are getting enough fiber to reduce the risk of heart disease and adequate intake to help bowel movement along.  Everyone should be getting at least 48 g or more of whole grains a day.

Easy examples to get you on the “whole-wheat wagon” are oatmeal, popcorn, and whole-wheat crackers, bread, and pasta.  Cookies, waffles, tortillas, English muffins, pretzels, snack bars, and beverages all can have the right kind of whole grains if you look for the whole grain stamp and read the labels.

For those already incorporating some whole wheat and are looking to have more variety, can try barley, wild rice, millet, and bulgur.

For the more experienced how about amaranth, buckwheat, quionoa, rye,teff, sorghum, and triticale (wheat and rye)?

For those that are “whole-wheat shocked” can incorporate these easy whole grain substitutes as baby steps in everyday life:

High-fiber cereals, like bran flakes or oatmeal, for breakfast instead of your sugary sweets (you know what I’m talking about)

Whole-wheat breads and flour for the white kind.  (Mental note: if you are stuck on white bread, there is such a thing called “white whole wheat bread” that you can look for)

Add grains such as barley and wild rice in soups, casseroles, and salads

Substitute rolled oats instead of flour or bread crumbs in recipes

Look for whole cornmeal- (yes, even cornmeal comes in whole version)

Ask for whole wheat breads, buns, or pizza dough when out dining

Have whole wheat crackers or pita chips instead of saltines or corn tortillas

Here’s a recipe for Morning Glory Muffins from Cooking Light Magazine that I tried last night that uses whole grain flour and has loads of fiber and some protein.  The best thing about this recipe is that you can do a lot of substitutions, which means you can use whatever you have on hand without having to make a special trip to the store.

I would like to thank the Whole Grain Council and the Mayo Clinic for helping me see the whole picture when it comes to whole grains.

Make this year the year that you try to incorporate more whole grains in your household!

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