To Your Health
October, 2008 (Vol. 02, Issue 10)
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Whole Grains 101

Whole grains are an easy and important way to incorporate good nutrition into healthy snacks. Here's a quick snapshot of whole grains and why they need to be a part of your diet.

What are whole grains and how are they different from refined grains? Whole grains are the seeds of plants and contain three main components: the bran, the endosperm and the germ. Each part of the grain adds valuable nutrients, including (but not limited to) the following: fiber, B vitamins, protein, carbohydrates, vitamin E, magnesium, phosphorus, iron and zinc. Refined grains leave out most of the positive natural nutrition.

What are the benefits of whole grains and why should I include them in my diet? Whole grains provide complex carbohydrates, protein, fiber, vitamins, and minerals, and can reduce the risk of coronary heart disease, help with weight maintenance and lower risk for other chronic diseases. To help achieve optimal health, choose a variety of whole grains such as buckwheat, oats, barley, triticale, rye, long-grain brown rice and hard, red winter wheat.

  • Buckwheat is hearty in flavor and a good source of fiber. Buckwheat is great for replacing white rice in your favorite recipes.
  • Oats are prized for their cholesterol-lowering soluble fiber.
  • Barley is also a great source of soluble fiber and gives a nutty flavor.
  • Triticale is a cross between durum wheat and rye, with higher protein content than its parents.
  • Rye is a staple grain that is usually chosen for its distinct flavor when combined with other whole grains.
  • Long-Grain Brown Rice has five times the fiber of white rice.
  • Hard, Red Winter Wheat is a hardy winter crop and is naturally higher in protein than its spring wheat counterpart.

How can I tell if I am choosing products containing whole grains? First, check the ingredient list and look for the word "whole" before each grain listing. Remember that ingredients are listed in descending order by weight, so the closer the ingredient is to the beginning of the list, the more the food contains per serving.

Sarah Ceccarelli is senior brand manager and nutritionist for Kashi Company, a natural food company based in La Jolla, Calif., dedicated to providing great-tasting, healthy and innovative foods that enable people to achieve optimal health and wellness.