When I was a little girl my Mom always use to say, “The whiter the bread, the sooner you’re dead!” I know it sounds a little cryptic but her whole intent was to convince us that we should savor our “whole wheat” bread peanut butter and jelly sandwiches packed in our school lunches rather than envy our classmates’ soft white bread sandwiches (I secretly coveted Alyssa’s crunchy peanut butter and honey sandwich made with white Wonder bread).
Although my Mom’s phrase was a little on the eerie side, it did have some wisdom. Multiple studies have shown that a diet high in whole grain foods has been linked to:
- Decreased risk of stroke by 30-36%
- Decreased risk of type 2 diabetes by 21-30%
- Decreased risk of heart disease by 25-28%
- Better weight management
- Healthier blood pressure
- Decrease risk of colorectal cancer
We often hear we should consume a diet high in whole grain foods, but sometimes I think people may not understand exactly that means. By definition, 100% of the original kernel must be present to qualify as a “whole grain.” It can be processed and broken down and still be considered whole grain as long as its entirety is used in the food. Some examples of whole grain foods are barley, corn (including cornmeal and popcorn), millet, oats, brown and colored rice, rye, and a variety of wheat.
Whole grains are carbohydrates with a small amount of protein and contain very minimal fat. The Dietary Guidelines recommend consuming three servings of whole grains per day. A serving size can pretty much be chalked up to: one half cup of rice, grains, and cooked cereal, one cup of ready-to-eat cereal, or one slice of bread.
I think a good way to ensure my family consumes enough whole grains daily is to buy brown rice at the grocery store rather than white. I also buy ready-to-eat whole grain cereals rather than cereal types made from puffed rice or white flakes. I buy whole grain cracker types and hide ground flaxseed in baked goods. Last but not least, I always take my Mom’s advice and buy whole wheat bread instead of white.
What’s your favorite whole grain to indulge in?
Sources: Whole Grain Council, Journal of the Academy of Nutition and Dietetics