What Is A Whole Grain?

According to the Whole Grains Council, whole grains or foods made from them contain all the essential parts and naturally-occurring nutrients of the entire grain seed. There are three parts to a grain kernel:

- The bran which contains most of the fiber plus a good amount of B vitamins and trace minerals. This is the part that's typically removed during processing, reducing the nutrition of the grain.

- The endosperm which contains the greatest amount of protein, carbohydrates and iron, as well as the major B-vitamins such as riboflavin, niacin, thiamin; plus iron and soluble fiber.

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- The germ which contains fat, B vitamins and trace minerals

Whole grains are nutritional powerhouses because they're higher in fiber, protein and other nutrients than more processed grains are.

Most adults should eat at least three whole grain servings per day. A serving can be one slice of bread, one cup of ready-to-eat cereal or a hlaf-cup cooked rice or pasta.

How To Find Whole Grains

Ignore the marketing on the front of the package which may trumpet the inclusion of a very small amount of whole grains and read the ingredient list. You want to see the word "whole" followed by a grain name as the first ingredient. For example, don't be fooled by the word "wheat" or the fact that the bread is brown; that's not enough to guarantee the nutrition of whole wheat.

Explore the bulk section of your natural foods store to find a larger selection of whole grains that what you'll typically find in the main aisles.

Whole Grains to Try

You've probably heard about whole wheat, brown rice and steel-cut oats as good grains. Why not try something new? Here are some easy swaps:

Try quick-cooking whole wheat couscous instead of regular couscous. There's no difference in taste or texture at all.

Add hulled barley to soups and stews in place of regular barley.

Brown rice is always a good replacement for white rice. Also try black (Forbidden) rice.

Quinoa (keen-wa) is as easy to cook as couscous, but is much higher in protein. It makes a versatile side dish.

Making the switch from white flour pasta to whole wheat pasta may be easier if you transition using multigrain pastas that are a blend of both types. Some are even high in protein.

An easy switch is whole wheat English muffins in place of regular muffins.

For a different hot cereal, try whole millet. Make it savory by adding shredded squash and carrot when cooking and you'll sneak in some extra vegetables too.

Lisa Corrado received her Master of Science in Human Nutrition from the University of Bridgeport and her Culinary Arts Diploma from the Institute of Culinary Education. She makes busy people healthier by combining clinical nutrition with foods they love to eat. Contact Lisa at 203-972-3447 or Lisa@LisaCorradoNutrition.com. Visit her website at www.LisaCorradoNutrition.com.