What are Whole Grains?
Whole grains are exactly as their name suggests; grains that are “whole,” in that they contain all parts of the grain. They are unprocessed, so the outer shell, also called the bran, remains intact, along with the germ and the endosperm, which is the main part of the grain. Refined grains are stripped of the germ and bran, making them less nutritious.
The simplest comparison to demonstrate the difference between whole and refined grains is between white and whole wheat breads. White bread is heavily processed, giving it a uniform texture without much flavor. On the other hand, whole wheat bread is denser, and has more color and texture. The taste is more complex and satisfying, and even slightly nutty in flavor.
List of Common Whole Grain Foods
The list of common whole grain foods includes items that are easy to find at the supermarket, and can be added to your diet in place of, or in addition to, foods that you already enjoy. The grains themselves are suitable for a vegetarian or vegan diet, but be sure to check the labels for packaged items to see what other ingredients are added.
Whole Grain Breads
Whole grain bread products are widely available, and come in many different varieties. When choosing whole grain bread, opt for 100% whole wheat or whole grain to get the maximum boost. Some breads offer a smaller percentage of whole wheat, which means that refined white flour has been substituted for part of the whole grains.
Some common whole grain bread products are:
* Sliced bread
* English muffins
* Pita bread
* Dinner rolls or other buns
Most of the starchy foods we eat are available as whole grain options. Here are some of the most common, many of which can be swapped out for the refined products you may be consuming now.
* Whole wheat or brown rice pasta * Brown or wild rice * Whole oats * Whole wheat or whole grain cereals * Whole wheat flour or rye flour * Popcorn * Whole wheat or whole grain crackers * Bulgur (cracked wheat) * Buckwheat * Millet * Barley * Wheatberries * Quinoa
Benefits of Whole Grains
The health benefits of eating whole grains rather than refined products are numerous. Unrefined, whole grains are great sources of nutrients, including:
* Natural, soluble fiber * Vitamin E * Vitamin B-6 * Zinc * Potassium * Folate * Protein * Iron * Thiamin * Riboflavin
There are other benefits to eating whole grains as well, including the full feeling that you get when you swap whole grains for refined grains in your meals. This feeling of being full lasts much longer than with refined products, which can help with weight loss.
Adding Whole Grains to Your Diet
Most of the common whole grain products in the lists above are packaged foods that can be eaten simply and without much preparation. If you’re looking to add more whole grains to your diet, it’s quite easy to replace refined grain products with this type of whole grain substitute.
If you’re not yet sold on the taste and texture differences in whole grain products, introduce them into your diet gradually. Foods like rice and pasta can be mixed, using half white and half whole grain. Gradually increase the amount of whole wheat food as your taste buds allow.
Other whole grains, such as barley or bulgur, can be added to common dishes such as soups, salads, and casseroles. Whole wheat flours can be substituted for all or part of the white flour in baking, and grains like wheatberries or oats can be added for extra taste and texture.
It can be fun to experiment with different whole grains, as each will add a new element to your recipes. Just follow the instructions on the package to learn how to prepare these versatile grains…