Facts About Whole Grains

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For many years, breads and pastas got a bad rap for being full of carbs. Many people, while trying to make their diets healthier, cut these items from their diet. Recently, breads and pastas are becoming popular again, but only when the label says they contain “whole grains.”

This label can be confusing, though, since many products label themselves as whole grain, when the product doesn’t contain very much whole grain at all.

According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), a product should contain intact, ground, cracked or flaked cereal grains that still contain their endosperm, germ and bran to be considered whole grain. Cereal grains include wheat, buckwheat, bulgur, corn amaranth, barley, millet, teff, triticale, quinoa, rice, rye, oats, sorghum and wild rice.

The endosperm, germ and bran are the main anatomical components of a cereal grain. Including these parts in a food is including the whole grain, thus the name “whole grain” on products.

A groat is a hulled grain that has been broken into fragments. The groat still includes the main anatomical components of a cereal grain, though, even though it has been hulled.

While the FDA provides these guidelines, manufacturers are often loose with their labeling of whole grains. Some products label themselves as whole grain, but only contain some whole grain ingredients. The FDA recommends looking for products that are labeled as “100 percent whole grain” instead of “whole grain” to get the most whole grain content. The Whole Grains Councilrecommends taking a look at the nutrition label. If the first ingredient is listed as a whole grain, the product is more likely to contain more whole grain.

While some whole grains are high in fiber, not all are. So, looking at the fiber content in a product isn’t always a good indication of the whole grain content.

The American Heart Association recommends eating six to eight servings of grain foods, especially whole grains, per day. Whole grains are important for the body for a number of reasons.

For example, whole grains are rich in the mineral magnesium. Magnesium is used by over 300 enzyme systems in the human body, according to the National Institutes of Health. It is vital for heart health, brain health and bone health.

This is the magnesium content of several different whole grain cereals per 200 calorie serving, according to Dr. Carolyn Dean, a nutrition expert who specializes in health, aging and diet:

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