Health experts advise everyone that grains are a healthy necessity in every diet and that it’s important to eat at least half our grains as whole grains. But what is a whole grain? Foods eaten in their whole form! A grain is the seed of a plant that belongs to the grass family such as wheat, rice, corn, barley, oats and rye. Other grains are buckwheat, bulgur, millet and sorghum.
A whole grain has all its original parts fiber-rich outer shell or bran, starchy endosperm where it stores energy and vitamin and mineral-packed germ.
Foods such as bread, cereal and crackers make with whole grains pack a bigger nutritional wallop then more refined foods that have been stripped of their bran and germ.
Whole grains are more than just fiber. They provide a unique combination of bioactive compounds, including antioxidants, healthful fats, vitamins and minerals that keeps hearts happy and may even reduce the risk for diabetes and cancer.
At least half the grain goods we eat each day should be whole grains. It can be ground, cracked, flaked or otherwise smashed and manipulated in processing as long as they retain their original parts-germ, bran and endosperm-in the same proportion as the original grain seed.
A food can bear the whole grain label if at least 51 percent of its ingredients are whole grains by weight. Examples include whole wheat bread, oatmeal, wild rice and brown rice. Foods that are 100 percent whole grain are made with whole grain or multigrain.
Refining whole wheat into white flour removes 24 percent of the protein and 17 unknown nutrients. Five of the 17 nutrients are added back during the enrichment process, but in different amounts than originally existed.
Refinement is intended to increase product shelf life and lighten the product. To refine wheat, however, both the fiber-rich (outer layer) and nutrient-rich (inner part) must be removed, leaving only the endosperm (middle part), which is a source of starch, protein and a small amount of vitamins and minerals.
Lunch and dinner are a vast wasteland of whole-grain products. The average consumer gats 70 percent of his or her daily whole-grain intake from breakfast and snack foods. The medical evidence is clear that whole grains reduce risks of heart disease, stroke, cancer, diabetes and obesity. Few foods can offer such diverse benefits.
Because of the phytochemicals and antioxidants, people who eat three daily servings of whole grains have been shown to reduce their risk of heart disease by 25-36%.
People who eat whole grains regularly have a lower risk of obesity as measured by their body mass index and waist-to-hip ratios. They also have lover cholesterol levels.
Other benefits indicated by recent studies include: reduced risk if asthma; healthier carotid arteries; reduction of inflammatory disease risk; lower risk of colorectal cancer; healthier blood pressure levels; less gum disease and tooth loss.
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