Whole Grains vs. Refined Grains- What’s the Difference?
Whole grains include the entire seed- the bran, the germ, and the endosperm. Examples of whole grains include quinoa, corn, brown rice, bulgur, oats, whole wheat, and buckwheat.
Refined grains, like ‘white’ breads and pastas, and many cereals, have been processed to remove the bran and germ, only leaving the endosperm. This often creates a more appealing texture and extends shelf life.
Unfortunately, we then lose fiber, iron, and many B vitamins (as well as lignans, beta-glucan, and phytochemicals), which all positively affect our health. When only the endosperm is left, we are left with a product that isn’t very nutrient-dense. Nutrient-density refers to the nutrients per calorie of a product or ingredient.
If you see a package that says, ‘enriched,’ like you would on many cereals, this means that the lost B vitamins and iron are added back in to the product. However, the fiber is never able to be added back in, which is a nutrient that Americans tend not to consume enough of.
In the average American diet, we consume only 9g fiber per day on average, when we should be aiming for 28-38g of fiber per day.
Consuming 2 or 3 servings of whole grains per day has shown to help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, as well as colon cancer and type 2 diabetes. The prebiotic effect (from fiber) of whole grains also provides us with better gut health.
Six ways to include whole grains:
• Choose whole grain crackers
• Opt for oatmeal at breakfast
• Enjoy corn on the cob this summer
• Choose popcorn for a snack
• Try out wild rice as a side dish alongside fish
• Choose a cereal that says, “100% whole grain”