You’re Not Getting the Whole Story about Whole Grains

When you purchase whole grain bread, pasta or other product it is easy to assume that you’re getting the whole grain and nothing but the grain, but that’s not always the case.

A recent study published in the medical journal, The Lancet found that there are many health benefits of eating a high fiber diet, including the high amounts of fiber normally found in whole grains. Some of the benefits include: protection against cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, colorectal and breast cancer, reduced body weight and total cholesterol, as well as reduced mortality. However, the researchers explained that the quality of the fiber plays a role in its health protective properties, or lack therof.

Commissioned by the World Health Organization (WHO) to assist the agency with fiber intake recommendations, the study at the University of Otago in New Zealand, reviewed 180 observational studies and an additional 50 clinical trials to determine the link between fiber and disease risk. They found a 15 to 30 percent reduced chronic disease and death risk among those who ate the highest amount of fiber compared to those who ate the lowest, which led the researchers to recommend getting 25 to 29 grams of fiber daily.

Whole grains are among the best sources of fiber, making their addition to your diet one of the best ways to boost your overall fiber intake. Just by increasing the amount of whole grains to 15 grams per day was enough to cut death risk by 2 to 19 percent, as well as a reduced incidence of coronary heart disease, type 2 diabetes and colorectal cancer. However, as the authors explained, just eating more whole grain foods is not enough.

In an interview with CNN, postdoctoral research fellow at the university Andrews Reynolds cautioned that many products sold as “whole grain” actually aren’t that at all: “Whole grains are being included in ultra-processed products that may be finely milled down and have added sodium, added free sugars and added saturated fats.” He added: “I think we all need to be aware of this and not confuse the benefits from the more intact, minimally processed whole grains with what is often advertised as whole-grain products available today.”

He’s right: many “whole grain” breads or pastas often contain a handful of whole grains so the company can reap the profits of marketing them under the “whole grain” guise. Often, these products have little to no nutritional value at all. In other words, that “whole grain” bread you’re eating for breakfast or sandwiches might not be that at all and may be harming your health more than it is helping.

What’s the Difference Between Whole Grains and Refined Grains?

What is whole grain vs. refined or white grains? Grains are made up of three main parts: the bran, the germ and the endosperm. True whole grains contain all three components, while refining grains removes the bran and germ, leaving only the endosperm. The refining process eliminates 25 percent of the protein along with 17 nutrients normally found in the grains, leaving a nutritional shell of what it originally was. For example, refined wheat contains only 8 percent of the vitamin E, 11 percent of vitamin B6, and 16 percent of magnesium found in whole wheat.

How to Avoid Being Duped

Consumers are being duped by many bread, pasta and other food manufacturers into thinking they may be eating healthier than they really are.

Fortunately, an organization known as Oldways Whole Grains Council is attempting to making things easier for shoppers in a hurry who still want to eat healthy by ensuring the “whole grain” products they are buying actually contain whole grains. To help, they’ve created a stamp that quickly communicates the number of grams of whole grams found in a serving of a particular product, as well as the percentage of the product that comprises whole grains: 100 or 50 percent or more.

Whole Grain Stamp

The “Whole Grain Stamp,” as the organization calls it, is a can’t-miss golden-yellow color with a black border and text that actually looks like a postage stamp. A quick glance at the stamp and you’ll know you’re buying a food product that actually contains whole grains. Better than that even, you’ll know whether it is 100 or 50 percent or more without having to scour ingredient and nutritional information lists that are infinitesimal in size.

If you can’t find the stamp on the product you’ve selected, be sure it states that it is “100% whole grain” to avoid products that are loaded with refined and nutritionally-inferior grains. Of course, you can also purchase whole grains to cook and enjoy on their own (such as whole, rolled oats for oatmeal), or grind them in a high-powered blender to make bread or other foods.

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Dr. Michelle Schoffro Cook, PhD, DNM shares her food growing, cooking, and other food self-sufficiency adventures at FoodHouseProject.com. She is the publisher of the free e-newsletter World’s Healthiest News, founder of Scent-sational Wellness, and an international best-selling and 20-time published book author whose works include: Be Your Own Herbalist: Essential Herbs for Health, Beauty, & Cooking. Follow her work.

 

57 comments

Kevin B
Peter Babout a month ago

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Peggy B
Peggy Babout a month ago

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Clare O'Beara
Clare O'Bearaabout a month ago

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Dennis Hall
Dennis Habout a month ago

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Lorraine Andersen
Lorraine Andersenabout a month ago

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Patricia A
Past Member about a month ago

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Kathy K
Kathy Kabout a month ago

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Paulo R
Paulo Rabout a month ago

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