If you’ve been following our Twitter account, you may have noticed whole grains mentioned a few times (like this for example; or this). Regular blog readers may have also noticed whole grains mentioned before as well; we even profiled one in our Secret Ingredient series. As you can tell we’re fans of whole grains, but this brings up a good question: what exactly is a whole grain?
To be considered a whole grain, all three parts of the grain kernel—germ, endosperm and bran—must remain intact. The germ is the part of the kernel that will grow into a new plant if fertilized, the endosperm the food supply for the developing plant. The bran is the tough outer coating that protects the germ and endosperm. When grains are processed and refined, the germ and bran are removed (and many nutrients along with them—the bran contains B vitamins and fiber; the germ contains minerals, healthy fats and some protein) leaving only the starchy endosperm. Products made with refined white flour need to have nutrients like iron, folate and niacin added back in to replace what was lost.
Diets rich in whole grains have been shown to lower blood pressure, and because they contain more fiber and protein, they’re less likely to cause blood sugar spikes than refined grains. Common whole grains include brown rice, oats and corn (both on the cob varieties and popcorn). But if you’re feeling adventurous, you might want to try one of the lesser known varieties like amaranth or spelt.
When shopping for whole grains don’t be fooled by the color—just because the bread on the shelf is brown doesn’t mean it’s whole grain! Some companies add coloring to white bread to make it darker. Read the label carefully and look for products that say “100% whole grain” or have “whole grain” in the name of first item on the ingredient list. You can also look for the Whole Grain Council’s stamp on the package.