Most of us know that whole grains are an important component of a healthier diet. Whole grains offer fiber, protein, and lots of complex carbohydrates to keep us truckin’ all day long. But what if our ‘whole grain’ foods are not quite as whole grain as we think? This story popped up on ABC News: maybe the makers of crackers, breads, and cereals are not telling the truth about the quality or quantity of whole grains in their products. This might not be a big surprise to some of you, but it’s still an interesting read. According to Michael Pollan’s suggestion in Food Rules, we should avoid buying any products with ‘health claims’ on the package- and this is the reason why. Instead, stick to whole foods from the produce aisles and bulk bins- no health claims on those rice bins– just natural goodness!
What foods are considered whole grain?
- Wheat, spelt, rye berries or barley: Chewy, hearty grains to serve alongside vegetables, in stews, as porridge, or tossed into salads.
- Rice: Brown and black rice have the most intact bran, which means higher nutrition for a happy body. White rice is delicious, but because the grain is polished, the germ, bran, and fiber decrease significantly.
- Whole Oats: Oat groats are the heartiest (and have the longest cooking time) but whole rolled oats are a great whole-grain way to start your day!
- Gluten-Freedom grains: Millet, amaranth, quinoa, and buckwheat add lots of flavor and variety to your diet, along with lots of nutrition.
What is NOT a whole-grain?
- Crackers and cereals: These snack foods are made from processed flour (often bleached, bromated, enriched), and are by design not a whole food. These offer little nutrition, spike our blood sugar, and leave us undernourished. There are some exceptions, of course, like Mary’s Gone Crackers, made with quinoa and flax, and quality whole-grain cereals, such as shredded wheat-type cereals.
- Breads and pastas: Though these pantry staples might include some whole-grains (ie: whole wheat flour in addition to processed flour) they are still not a truly whole grain option. Does this mean you shouldn’t eat them? No, but do try to balance out these slightly processed grains with lots of truly whole-grains (see recipes in the links above!)