Whole grains in diet provide nutrients, guard against diseases
By Lisa Franzen-Castle
UNL Panhandle Extension Nutrition Specialist
Did you know that people who eat whole grains as part of a healthy diet have a reduced risk of some chronic diseases? Grains provide many nutrients vital for health and it is recommended that at least half of all the grains eaten be whole grains.
September is whole grains month, and on average most Americans eat enough grains, but few are whole grains. Check out the following tips to help increase your intake of whole grains.
Make more of your grains whole:
--What are grains? Any food made from wheat, rice, oats, cornmeal, barley or another cereal grain is a grain product. Examples include bread, pasta, oatmeal, breakfast cereals, tortillas, and grits. Whole grains contain the entire grain kernel--the bran, germ, and endosperm. Examples include whole-wheat flour, bulgur (cracked wheat), oatmeal, whole cornmeal, and brown rice.
--How much is needed? The amount of grains needed daily depends on your age, gender, and physical activity level. Most adults need about 6 ounce-equivalents of grains, with half or 3 ounce-equivalents being whole grains. The Choose MyPlate chart lists specific recommendations: www.choosemyplate.gov/food-groups/grains-amount.html.
--What counts as an ounce? In general, 1 slice of bread, 1 cup of ready-to-eat cereal, or 1/2 cup of cooked rice, cooked pasta, or cooked cereal can be considered as 1 ounce equivalent from the Grains Group. The chart lists specific amounts that count as 1 ounce equivalent of grains: www.choosemyplate.gov/food-groups/grains-counts.html.
--What are the health benefits? Consuming whole grains as part of a healthy diet may reduce the risk of heart disease, help with weight management, and reduce constipation. Grains are important sources of many nutrients, including dietary fiber, several B vitamins (thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, and folate), and minerals (iron, magnesium, and selenium).
--Whole grains at meals. Use whole-grain breads for sandwiches, try brown rice stuffing in baked green peppers or tomatoes, or put whole-wheat macaroni in macaroni and cheese. Try rolled oats or a crushed, unsweetened whole-grain cereal as breading for baked chicken, fish, or veal cutlets. Try an unsweetened, whole-grain ready-to-eat cereal as croutons in a salad.
--Whole grains as snacks. Snack on ready-to-eat, whole-grain cereals. Add whole-grain flour or oatmeal to baked treats. Try 100 percent whole-grain snack crackers. Popcorn, a whole grain, can be a healthy snack if made with little or no added salt and butter.
--What to look for on food labels. Choose foods that list a whole grain (such as brown rice, oatmeal, bulgur, wild rice, whole-grain corn, whole oats, whole rye or whole wheat) first on the ingredient list. Multi-grain, stone-ground, seven-grain or bran are usually not whole-grain foods. Food color is not always a good indicator of whole grain. Bread can be brown due to molasses or other added ingredients. Also, choose products with a higher percent daily value (%DV) for fiber.
To broaden your food horizons with whole grains, try substituting a whole grain product for a refined one and using the Nutrition Facts Label to help you choose more whole grains at the grocery store. For more food, nutrition, and health information go to food.unl.edu.