Posted by: Duke Raleigh Hospital | July 20, 2012

The “Whole” Truth

The “Whole” Truth

“Overwhelmed on isle 3” is usually what I am saying to myself while trying to tackle my list at the local grocery store. Reduced fat or heart health, organic or gluten free?  Trying to find items that are best suited for your health needs, and won’t sacrifice too much of the taste; is not always easy!

Then, just as you are beginning to get in the swing of things…you arrive at the bread isle. I am a firm believer that instruction manuals should be provided for two things; cars and the bread isle.

Luckily, we are here to give you the “whole” truth.

Grains are an essential part of any healthy diet. Therefore, it is important to understand what types of grains you should be eating. There are two types of grains; refined and whole. The majority of people don’t know the difference between them, and unfortunately the  typical American diet consists mostly of highly refined grains.

What are refined grains? Refined grains are grains that have gone though the milling process, meaning they have had their bran (Fiber-rich outer layer) and germ (nutrient-rich inner layer) removed. Only the endosperm (middle part) remains. Even though this process makes grains easier to use in cooking, it essentially strips them of their nutritious B vitamins, iron, vitamin E, selenium, fiber and other disease-fighting components.  A few examples of refined grain products are: white breads, baked goods, pasta, crackers, white rice and corn flakes cereal.

What are whole grains? Well, they are just as they sound, “whole”. Whole grains don’t go through the milling process, therefore preserving all the important nutrients that refined grains lack. They are an excellent source of fiber, B vitamins, iron, zinc, magnesium, vitamin E, and selenium. They also contain a certain plant chemical called phytochemicals; these have significant health-promoting effects.

Whole grains keep you regular (reducing constipation, hemorrhoids, and diverticular disease), they lower your cholesterol levels and decrease your risk of cardiovascular disease! They also assist in reducing your risk of cancer, type 2 diabetes, and increasing your absorption of other nutrients since they take longer to digest.

Where can you find these nutrition superheroes? Here are a few examples; whole wheat bread, barley, brown rice, bulgar, corn, whole oats, quinoa, rye, amaranth, buckwheat, millet, and spelt.

Although this is helpful when it comes to navigating through your next grocery trip, your work isn’t done yet. Unfortunately, you can’t rely on the name or appearance of products. Here are your shopping guide tips:

  1. Read the ingredients! The ingredients are listed in descending order by weight, so what you should look for is “whole grain” or “whole wheat” as the first ingredient.
  2. Don’t let wording trick you! Wheat flour, or unbleached wheat flour are not the same as whole wheat.
  3. Be cautious of products that say “made with whole grain” or “made with oatmeal”. These don’t indicate how much whole grain or oatmeal is in the product. It could be at the bottom of ingredients list!

Hopefully, this will help your weekend grocery shopping seem less daunting! Just remember, use your brain to pick the grains!


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