In our quest to become more health-conscious, food companies are now offering wheat and grain alternatives to popular products. We now can eat foods such as whole grain cereal, whole-wheat pasta, multi-grain crackers, and honey wheat bread. While these products may include healthy terms such as “wheat,” “organic wheat,” and “wheat flour,” they all mean different things in terms of health benefits it provides our bodies. Let us look at the definition of these terms.

Whole Grain Council

According to the Whole Grains Council, “Whole Grain” foods are foods made from whole grains. Full-grain is a seed that is composed of its germ, endosperm, and bran. The bran is where all the vitamins, fiber, and minerals lie within the grain. Some examples of whole grains include corn, brown rice, wheat, wild rice, bulgur, oatmeal, and quinoa. Wheat is a popular type of whole grain in our country. If wheat contains its germ, endosperm, and bran after processing, it is still a whole grain. However, food manufacturers will refine wheat grains to the point where it loses its endosperm and bran, removing the fiber and other essential vitamins. The wheat cannot be considered whole grain or whole wheat; it is a partial grain. Even though a product may state it is “made with whole grains” or “has 5g of grains per serving,” it does not mean it is a whole grain once it reaches your mouth. Furthermore, products that state it is made from “multi-grains” or “honey wheat” represent one of the ingredients in the food that contains some grain, but it does not necessarily mean it is the WHOLE grain. If it does not have the entire grain, then it provides our body with minimal health benefits.

So how do we determine which product contains whole grains? The Whole Grains Council now includes stamps on some products identifying them as “100% whole grain.” However, if the product does not have authorization, it does not automatically mean it is not 100% whole grain. 

Another way to determine if your bread and cereals contain whole grains is by checking their ingredients. On the back of the product, the first or second ingredient in the list should read “100% whole grain,” “whole wheat flour,” or “whole grain”; something stating the WHOLE grain was left intact after processing. Remember, the U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends more than half of our grains daily should come from whole grains. The next time you are in the grocery store, check the grains you usually purchase to make sure you are getting enough whole grains in your diet. Click here for the full grains council’s list of products that contain whole grains.

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