It’s not a new concept that everyone should consume whole grain foods. Whole grains have been linked with reduced rates of heart disease, reduced cancer risk, and with helping people maintain a healthy weight.
But do you know what a “whole” grain actually is? Many people are confused by this term. At the grocery store, we see “Made with Whole Grains” or on a variety of food packaging. Below you will see what to look for when you are shopping for your grain products.
Let’s start with the parts of a grain. A grain has three layers; the bran, germ, and endosperm. The bran contains fiber, important antioxidants, iron, zinc, copper, magnesium, and B vitamins. The germ contains B vitamins, vitamin E, antioxidants, and unsaturated fats. The endosperm, the largest portion of the grain, contains starchy carbohydrates, proteins, and small amounts of vitamins and minerals.
Whole grains have all three layers present. Examples are whole oats, brown rice, barley, popcorn, whole wheat, whole grain cornmeal, whole rye, wild rice, buckwheat, bulgur, millet, and quinoa.
When you’re at the grocery store, it is important to look past the front label and read the ingredient list. Packaging may say “whole” grain, but the ingredient may be “refined” or “enriched”. You want to avoid these items, and choose the food with the word “whole” preceding the grain used.
Whole grain: all three layers are present.
Refined grains: bran and germ are removed to produce a product with a lighter and softer texture.
Multigrain: Means it contains more than one type of grain. May be “whole” or “refined”.
What to choose at the grocery store:
• whole wheat bread
• whole wheat pasta
• whole wheat crackers
• cereal made with oats, bran, whole wheat
• bread: whole wheat, rye, multigrain
• brown or wild rice
• granola bars
Always remember to look at the ingredient list and put back anything whose first ingredient is "refined” or “enriched” flour.
For a personalized nutrition evaluation and consultation, please contact me at
443-849-8186 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Keri Ryniak, RD, CSO, LDN, CNSD
Certified Specialist in Oncology Nutrition