What are Whole Grains? and Health Benefit of Whole Grains

Whole grains are an important part of a child’s nutrition. Finding foods that are full of grains naturally is not as hard as parents may think.

The USDA recommends that Americans “make half their grains whole.” That means that most people should eat three or more servings of whole grains every day.

There is no need to groan and roll any eyes. Whole grains do not always mean the nutty, chewy, dry bread that has to be slathered with butter to be edible.

What Is a Whole Grain?

A whole grain is any grain that still has it’s endosperm, bran and germ in it’s original proportion. The bran and germ are what make the whole grain substantially better for you.

 

An enriched grain has had the bran and the wheat germ taken out, which removes important nutrients such as fiber. A grain that is “enriched” has some of these nutrients added back in but the composition of the grain has been changed and does not break down in the body the same.

How Much Is a Serving of Whole Grain?

Serving recommendations vary based on age and gender. The recommendations listed below are for moderately active individuals.

  • Preschoolers should have between two and three ounces a day.
  • Children between the ages of four and eight should have five ounce equivalents a day.
  • Girls nine to thirteen need five ounce equivalent.
  • Girls aged fourteen to eighteen need six ounce equivalents.
  • Boys between nine and thirteen need six ounce equivalents.
  • Boys between fourteen and eighteen need seven ounce equivalents.
  • Women between nineteen and fifty need six ounces.
  • Any woman over fifty needs five ounces.
  • Men between nineteen and thirty need eight ounces.
  • Men between thirty one and fifty need seven ounces.
  • Men older than fifty need six ounce equivalents.

In foods that are not solely a whole grain, servings are measured by grams. In this case sixteen grams is considered a full serving. For example, when eating corn niblets, a serving is easily measured by doling out three ounces. However, when eating a food that is mixed with enriched grains, they must be counted using grams as a serving.

Measuring Whole Grains

When choosing 100% whole grain, it is simple to count servings. But when trying to determine the amount of grain in a food that is only partially made from whole grains the servings are harder to determine. For example, when eating a fruit and grain bar, the amount of grams per serving is difficult to measure.

The food industry is introducing a food stamp that will be added to the packaging of any food that is a significant source of grain. The stamp will show exactly how many grams of grain are in a serving. If the product contains 100% whole grains the stamp will be marked as such.

The Whole Grain Council offers an easy way to find the amount of whole grains in a product. By visiting their site, consumers are able to search foods by type and brand. Go to stamped products for a comprehensive list.

Consumers trying to determine which fruit and grain bar is higher in whole grain content can browse the “bar” section.

Foods That Are Not High in Whole Grains

Marketers do whatever they can to fool consumers into thinking their products are full of whole grains. When looking for a product that is made from whole grains it is important to look for the 100% whole grain label.

Other labels mean that the product has whole grains in it but it is only a portion of the grain ingredients. These labels do not mean that the product is 100% whole grain. Be wary when buying products with these labels or ingredients.

  • Unbleached wheat flour (this is still white bread)
  • Made with whole wheat.
  • Cracked wheat
  • Oat bran
  • Anything that lists the number of grains (7grain, 9 grain)
  • Whole bran
  • Stoned wheat
  • Cream of wheat

It’s a lot to remember so the best thing to do is look for a product that says it has100% whole grain. Consumers should look on the label. The first ingredient will be a whole grain, whether it is whole wheat, whole oats or whole bran.

Common Foods That Are Examples of Whole Grains

There are many foods that are an easy source of grains.

  • Corn
  • Oatmeal
  • Cheerios (any one but the original is the best)
  • Wild Rice (even more nutritious and tastier than brown rice)
  • Granola or Muesli
  • Popcorn

Resources for Finding Whole Grains

Whole grains are essential for health. Enriched grains do not include the same nutrients as whole. Consumers should have three to five servings a day,which is the equivalent of 48 grams of whole grains. Some foods are easy to measure, as they are clearly marked 100% whole grain. Those that are not 100% whole grains can be measured by using the food stamp marked on the packaging or going to the Whole Grain Council’s website.

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