Nutritional Density: Let me break it on down (Part 2) Whole Grains

Whole Grains

What is a whole grain?  A whole grain is a starch with the entire kernel left intact.  A refined grain is the starch that has the hull or coarse outer bran removed.  The problem is, the bran contains most of the fiber and nutrients, so when it is removed you are left with the endosperm, which is just a starch, a starch that is very rapidly converted to pure sugar, even before it reaches the stomach or bloodstream.  In high school we did an experiment where we took ordinary processed white wheat saltine crackers and chewed them up.  We spit the chewed cracker into a test tube to measure the sugar level.  The change was significant.  Processed starch turns to sugar before it is swallowed.

So, food manufacturers can be pretty tricky when trying to get us to buy their products and will say anything to confuse about the whole grain issue.  Here is a quick guide to what exactly you get when buying grain products at the market:

  • Made with whole grain – probably processed grain (endosperm) and perhaps a touch of bran added.  Usually unclear about how much of the grain used was whole.
  • Multigrain – has nothing to do with the wholeness or unwholeness of the grain used.  Multigrain means that more than one type of grain was used, such as wheat and oats.
  • 100% whole grain – this is the best one.  Indicates that the entire kernel was used–bran, endosperm, and germ.
  • Wheat bread – means nothing.  Most bread is made from wheat, but if there is no indication of what percentage of that wheat is whole, assume that is not.

Generally, though not always, when looking for whole grain products they are more brown in color and less white.  The higher levels of fiber in the food slows down its conversion to sugar, causing a slower spike in blood sugar in addition to the higher nutrient level.  Examples of whole grain products are brown rice, 100% whole wheat bread, whole grain rye bread, 100% whole wheat pasta, 100% whole wheat couscous, and oat bran.

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