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Finding the Healthiest Whole-Grain Products: Fiber, B vitamins, and essential minerals are just some of the nutrients you will get from whole grains.

Whole grains are rich in nutrients, including all of the B vitamins, iron, magnesium, and selenium, as well as dietary fiber. Folate (vitamin B9), in particular, helps the body form new cells.

From breads, crackers, and wraps to rice, popcorn, and oatmeal, there are many options for working whole grains into your diet. But, all whole grains are not equal in nutritional value. Here's how to choose the healthiest whole grains.

What Is a "Whole" Grain

All grains start out as whole grains. A whole grain has three parts: bran, germ, and endosperm. The bran is the outer layer of the edible kernel; it contains fiber, as well as antioxidants and B vitamins.

The germ, the smallest of the three components, is similar to a seed; it contains B vitamins, protein, minerals, and healthy fats. The endosperm is the largest part of the kernel; it contains starchy carbohydrates, proteins, and some vitamins and minerals.

Whole grains include wheat, rice, oats, rye, barley, buckwheat, bulgur, freekeh, quinoa, couscous, and corn. Products that say "whole grain" on the package may not necessarily be 100-percent whole grain.

Refined and Enriched Grains

Products such as white flour and white rice had parts of the original whole grain removed during processing. These are called "refined" grains, and they usually consist of only the endosperm. During refining, one-half to two-thirds of the nutrients are lost. Refined flour is used to make breads, bagels, cookies, cakes, and other baked goods and snack foods.

Enriched grains are refined grains that have had some nutrients put back in. However, the quantities do not match those in whole grain. Refined wheat flour has just 8 percent of the vitamin E and 11 percent of the vitamin B6, for example, of whole-wheat flour. With enriched products, some ingredients are fortified to extremes. Enriched wheat flour has 661 percent of whole wheats folate and nearly 300 percent of its riboflavin, according to the Whole Grains Council.

Whole Grain's Fiber Benefits

Dietary fiber is a key component of whole grains. A high-fiber diet is associated with improvements in cholesterol and lower risks of heart disease, stroke, obesity, and type 2 diabetes.

Whole grains with the highest dietary fiber content in a full serving (16 grams, according to the USD A) include wheat, barley, rye, oats, quinoa, and corn. Wild rice has about twice as much as brown rice. Some whole grains are not high in fiber, so check the ingredients list and Nutrition Facts label.

The National Academy of Sciences Food and Nutrition Board recommends that women over age 50 consume 21 grams of dietary fiber per day and women ages 31 to 49 consume 25 g per day. To get the best nutrition from whole grains, include several varieties in your meal plans.


When searching for the most nutritious whole-grain products:

* Beware food labels that say "made with whole grains"; it doesn't mean the entire product is whole grain. Check the ingredients.

* Ingredients are listed in order of quantity from most to least. If a whole grain is further down on the list, that means it's not one of the primary ingredients.

* Check the Nutrition Facts label for amounts of added sugar, saturated fat, and sodium content; the nutrient value of a food declines if these amounts are high, even if the food is made with whole grains.

* Refined and enriched grains are not whole grains. Some part of the grain has been removed, and enriched grains have had nutrients added to them.

Caption: Consuming whole grains is beneficial for the heart, gut health, blood glucose control, and weight management.
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Publication:Women's Nutrition Connection
Date:Jun 1, 2018
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