Sure, we've all heard that we’re supposed to eat whole grains—and lots of them. But what exactly is a “whole” grain? Are there “partial” grains? “Half-hearted” grains? And just which part of the “amber waves of grain” do they come from?
To find out, I recently took a tour of Bob’s Red Mill in Portland, Ore., where they opened my eyes to all sorts of new information—although it’s really old information since the milling of grains has been going on for millennia. As far back as the Greek and Roman civilizations, water-powered mills were grinding whole grains to make an array of tasty and healthful foodstuffs.
Back to Basics
We know how beneficial whole grains can be; that they can reduce the risk of cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and other diseases; that they provide fiber, complex carbohydrates, and protein all in one tiny little package. And the most recent Dietary Guidelines published by the USDA recommend that more than half of our grain intake consist of whole grains, while noting that 95 percent of Americans currently fail to do so.
So how do we reach that lofty goal? To start with, it helps to know exactly what we're talking about. A “whole” grain consists of the bran (outer coating), germ (inner heart), and endosperm (central portion). To be labeled “whole,” a grain must contain all three components, in the exact proportions in which they are found in nature.
Sounds simple, right? Well, not necessarily. Because technically, it's permissible for manufacturers to separate the components of the grain and recombine them, as long as the amounts and proportions remain the same. And that’s just the beginning of the confusion for consumers trying to find whole-grain products on the shelves of their favorite markets.
“Whole wheat,” for instance, doesn’t necessarily mean “whole grain.” Neither do “nine grain” or “multi-grain,” for that matter. So here are a few tips to clear away the uncertainty:
And that's all there is to it. With just a little basic information and some creative meal ideas, it's really not that difficult to reach that daily requirement of three servings of whole grains. Just try oatmeal for breakfast (or our Blueberry-Corn Muffins, p. 60), Boosted Tabbouleh for lunch (visit betternutrition.com to get recipe), and a satisfying brown rice pilaf with dinner—and give your family the amazing whole-grain health you deserve.
Basic Blueberry Corn Muffins Makes 12 muffins
Instead of cereal and fruit, start your day with these yummy treats and a little Greek yogurt.
1 cup white whole-wheat flour (organic, if possible)
1 cup whole-grain cornmeal (organic, if possible)
1½ Tbs. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1 large organic egg
¼ cup plus 2 Tbs. honey
¼ cup plus 2 Tbs. organic brown sugar
1 stick organic unsalted butter, divided and melted
1 cup 2% organic milk
2 cups fresh organic blueberries
PER SERVING: 227 CAL; 4 G PROT; 9 G TOTAL FAT (5 G SAT FAT); 36 G CARB; 37 MG CHOL; 353 MG SOD; 2 G FIBER; 19 G SUGARS