These days, as gluten intolerances become increasingly common and more folks are pledging the Paleo diet, the healthfulness of whole grains is a debated subject. I cannot speak for a globe of eaters on this (or any other) issue, but I can share what works best for me. Over the years, I’ve struggled with blood sugar issues (mostly low sugar crashes) and through trial and error, I’ve determined my body functions at its best when its has several small meals spaced throughout the day, each consisting of protein, fat, and carbohydrates. It’s no secret I love carbs. Say it with me: CARBS ARE NOT THE ENEMY! (In fact, carbs are ENERGY.) Not all carbohydrates are created equal though, and that’s where whole grains come into play.
What’s a whole grain?
In their natural state, grains consist of three parts: endosperm, germ, and bran. When a grain is processed or refined, it is stripped of its bran and germ, leaving only the endosperm. This gives the grain a smoother texture and improves shelf life, but leaches nutrients in the process. Food manufacturers often add fillers (thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, iron, etc.) to enhance the nutritional stats of the processed grains. The resulting “enriched” products are grossly inferior to whole grains.
According to WebMD (and a million other sites and research studies), a diet rich in whole grains has been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, obesity, and some forms of cancer PLUS improve bowel health (thank you very much!).
Some common types of whole grains:
*starred whole grains are gluten-free
- Corn* (including cornmeal & popcorn)
- Rice* (brown, wild)
- Wheat (includes spelt, farro, bulgur, wheatberries, and more)
What am I eating?! Navigating the nutrition panel
Shopping for whole grains can be really challenging. It’s great to shop with intention and desire to purchase whole grains, but cryptic nutrition labels can easily confuse a buyer. The Whole Grains Council chart below is an excellent tool to assist you in finding whole grain products.
|Words you may see on packages:||Is it a whole grain?|
YES — Contains all parts of the grain, so you’re getting all the nutrients of the whole grain.
MAYBE — These words are accurate descriptions of the package contents, but because some parts of the grain MAY be missing, you are likely missing the benefits of whole grains. When in doubt, don’t trust these words!
NO — These words never describe whole grains.
Remember, 100% wheat doesn’t mean 100% whole wheat. Likewise, “multi-grain” doesn’t necessarily mean whole grain.
A quick check is to look for the 100% whole grain stamp (at right, below):
What’s the deal with white whole wheat flour?
White wheat is actually nutritionally comparable to regular wheat! White wheat lacks the reddish-brown color of regular wheat and is softer in texture and milder in flavor. White whole wheat flour is simply whole flour made from white wheat. The key word to look for is “whole.”
How about a whole grain goodness giveaway?
The Whole Grains Council sent me an enormous goodie box chock full of whole grain products, and has generously offered to send another box to one reader. Check out this enormous list:
- Among Friends Cookie Mix
- Barbara’s Bakery All Natural Shredded Oats Cereal
- Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free Muesli
- Engine 2 Triple Seed Crispbread
- Evan’s Heavenly Spelt Oatmeal Raisin Cookie Mix
- Freekehlicious Whole Grain Freekeh
- Frontier Soups Wheat Berry Chili
- Goose Valley Brown & Wild Rice Fusion
- Home Free Mini Double Chocolate Chip Cookies
- Jovial Brown Rice Pasta and Einkorn Pasta
- Mestemacher Rye Bread
- Nabisco Wheat Thins
- Pamela’s Gluten Free Oatmeal Cookie Mix
- Real McCoy’s Sweet and Spicy & Sea Salt rice chips
- Sea Salt & Black Pepper Brown Rice Triscuits (my new FAV!)
- Tasty Bite Garlic Brown Rice
- Upfront Nutty Granola With Pecans and Almonds
- Way Better Sweet Potato Chips
Giveaway ends Friday April 7th at 11:59pm. US only. Winner will be announce on the Fervent Foodie Facebook Page!