With so much talk about whole grains lately, it can be easy to get confused. But the term “whole grain” is so much more than a nutritional buzzword. Whole grain wheat is actually much more healthy than refined wheat. In fact, the Whole Grains Council says that 25% of a grain’s protein is lost when it is refined.
The Anatomy of Whole Grain
A grain seed is made up of three healthy parts: the bran, the endosperm, and the germ. The bran is the outer layer of the seed, and contains fiber, B vitamins, and antioxidants. Under the bran is the endosperm, the largest portion of the seed, which is packed with proteins and vitamins and minerals. The endosperm feeds the germ, which contains healthy fats, more B vitamins, protein and minerals.
Whole Grain vs. Refined Grain
The Whole Grains Council explains that when wheat is refined, it loses the healthy parts of the plant. Refined grains have been significantly altered from their natural whole state. Usually the healthy bran and germ of the wheat has been removed and then the remaining bran may be mixed or bleached. In an attempt to enrich the grain back to its original nutrition, naturally occurring grain nutrients may be artificially added in. However, because so many nutrients have been removed, this rarely returns the refined grain to its previous healthy state.
Whole Grain vs. Whole Wheat
Whole grains and whole wheat are not technically the same things. Wheat, by definition, is one of many grains. Others include barley, spelt, oats, rice, rye, quinoa, corn, and buckwheat. So in essence, whole wheat is a whole grain, but a whole grain is not necessarily whole wheat. However, looking for either of these labels on food will help you find better wheat choices.
When in doubt about a food’s nutritional value, always check the nutritional label. And remember, when making decisions about grains or any other food for your balanced diet, whole is always better.
- “What is a Whole Grain?”, Whole Grains Council
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