September is Whole Grains Month, which is an annual reminder that you should be eating more whole grains. Why, you ask? Because they’re chock full of health and nutrition benefits, and lots of them! In fact, according to WebMD, eating more whole grains is like adding a layer of health insurance to your life.
About those benefits
Whole grains are packed with nutrients your body needs, including protein, fiber, B vitamins, antioxidants and trace minerals, such as iron, zinc, copper and magnesium. Also, studies have found that a diet rich in whole grains may:
- Reduce risk of stroke
- Reduce risk of type 2 diabetes
- Reduce risk of heart disease
- Reduce risk of inﬂammatory disease
- Reduce risk of asthma
- Lower risk of cancer, including colorectal, breast and pancreatic cancer
- Lead to healthier carotid arteries
- Help produce healthier blood pressure levels
- Result in less gum disease and tooth loss
- Help with weight maintenance – Eating whole grains can leave you with less belly fat, and they make you feel fuller than refined grains (think: white flour, white bread, white rice)
- Improve bowel health by helping to maintain regular bowel movements and promote growth of healthy bacteria in the colon
What are whole grains and how can I incorporate them into my daily diet?
Whole grains have all of the parts of the original kernel, including bran, germ and endosperm, in the original proportions. In refined grains, the bran and germ are stripped away. Whole grains include:
- Corn (including whole cornmeal and popcorn)
- Oats (including oatmeal)
- Rice (both brown rice and colored rice)
- Sorghum (also called milo)
- Wheat (including ancient grains, such as KAMUT® brand khorasan wheat, einkorn, emmer/farro and spelt)
- Wild rice
With U.S. Dietary Guidelines recommending three-five servings of whole grains every day, it’s lucky for us that finding products with whole grains in them isn’t hard, since so many mainstream brands recognize their benefits and have incorporated them into their products. However, labeling can be deceptive, so when you’re at the grocery store make sure the whole grain product you’re picking up actually contains whole grains.
How to spot a whole grain
The Whole Grains Council created an official packaging symbol, the “Whole Grain Stamp,” to help consumers find real whole grain products. The Stamp ensures the food contains a full serving or more of whole grains in each labeled serving, and that all the grain is whole grain. The basic Whole Grain Stamp (it doesn’t say “100%” on it) appears on products containing at least half a serving of whole grain per labeled serving.
However, not all whole grains have a Whole Grain Stamp on them, so here are some words you may see on a package of a product that contains actual whole grains:
- Whole grain [name of grain]
- Whole wheat
- Whole [other grain]
- Stoneground whole [grain]
- Brown rice
- Pats, oatmeal (including old-fashioned oatmeal, instant oatmeal)