Which is better for you: whole grain or whole wheat? This article will put to rest misconceptions and clear the fog surrounding these two buzz phrases. A lot is said about the health benefits of whole grain and whole wheat. The two seem to be used interchangeably, which causes head-pounding confusion and can make choosing foods for your diet seem impossible. The truth about the two “wholes” is that they are, in fact, the same. Rather, “whole wheat” is a “whole grain.”
The definition of a whole grain, given by the Whole Grains Council, is that it contains “100 percent of the original kernel – all of the bran, germ and endosperm.” All of these must be present to qualify as a whole grain. The Whole Grains Council explains further that even if a whole grain is processed (cracked, crushed, rolled, cooker, etc.) the food product will still contain the same nutrients as the original grain.
The question now is: how should whole grains factor into your diet? U.S. Dietary Guidelines recommend that people consume three ounces of whole grains daily. Unfortunately, most Americans took this as a recommendation to add three ounces of whole grains to their diets instead of replacing the processed grains they were already consuming. Not only that, but the media has blitzed the public with misleading information proclaiming whole grains as a miracle food. This has led to a heavy over-consumption of grains, because “if it’s healthy, you should a lot of it, right?”
Follow your dietary instincts. Just because something is healthier than its counterpart does not mean you should eat a lot of it. Just make sure to use whole grains as your replacement for processed grains.
It is very easy for food companies to mislead you about the contents of their product. The FDA (Food and Drug Administration) requires only 51 percent of the product to contain “whole grains” to be counted as such. This means just a little less than half of your “whole grain” product could have heavily processed grains. Not only this, but the FDA only requires the grain parts to exist in the mixture. When the grain’s kernel is separated it releases the starch from the kernel’s middle endosperm. This causes quick blood sugar spikes that would only occur gradually with an intact kernel.
Do not to let this dissuade you from whole grains. They are a very important part of your overall health when consumed properly. Whole grains can help guard against illnesses such as heart disease and diabetes. The important thing is to be smart about whatever you are eating. It is the high-fiber content of whole grain product that makes it as healthy as it is. If your fiber to carbohydrate intake is more than 1 to 10, you are getting less sodium, sugar, and trans fats than other whole grain foods. Always, always look at the packaging to understand what you are putting into your body.
Research has also shown that eating whole grains has a positive psychological effect. When you choose whole grains over processed grains, you may just make better overall health decisions. According to a 2006 study, people choosing whole grains “are less than half as likely to smoke and 25 percent more likely to exercise as those who eat less whole grain.”
Never believe information that is handed to you. It is important to research for yourself when it comes to your health. Whole grains are definitely better for you than their über-processed counterpart, but use your common sense. If it comes down to a snack choice of Greek yogurt and a whole grain brownie, take the yogurt.
For more information on how to incorporate whole grains into your diet, click here. And make sure to visit our Facebook and Pinterest pages for more information on healthy living, and subscribe our newsletter for updates!