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8 Tips for Choosing Whole-Grain Foods
September 21, 2018
You can’t shop at a grocery store, sit down at a restaurant or read through a health magazine without seeing the words ‘whole grains.’
Most of us know that whole grains are an important part of a balanced diet. Higher consumption of whole grains has been associated with a reduced risk of heart disease, obesity, Type 2 diabetes and bowel cancer.
But, for many of us, there is confusion over how much whole grains we should consume every day and where to find whole grain in foods.
What is a whole grain … exactly?
Whole grains or foods made from them have three key parts (bran, germ and endosperm) that provide essential nutritional components - carbohydrates, proteins, vitamins and antioxidants.
The bran contains fiber, along with antioxidants and some B vitamins. Most of the nutrients, including B vitamins, minerals, some protein and healthy fats are provided by the germ. The endosperm provides the body starchy carbohydrates, some protein, and small amounts of vitamins and minerals.
According to the Whole Grains Council, refined grains are missing at least one of the three key parts of a whole grain. For example, white flour and white rice are missing the bran and the germ. This removes about one-fourth of the protein and one-half to two-thirds — or more — of the nutrients.
Does this mean I should only eat whole grains?
While most of us consume enough grains, few are whole grains. At least half of all the grains eaten should be whole grains. The amount of whole grains you need to eat depends on your age, gender and level of physical activity.
There are many choices available to make half your grains whole grains. Consider these selected tips from ChooseMyPlate.gov to select whole grain products and keep them fresh and safe to eat.
- Search the label
Look at the Nutrition Facts labels and ingredients list to find choices lower in sodium, saturated (solid) fat and added sugars.
- Look for the word “whole” at the beginning of the ingredients list
Foods that say “multi-grain,” “100% wheat,” “high fiber,” or are brown in color may not be a whole grain product.
- Find the fiber on label
If the product provides at least 3 grams of fiber per serving, it is a good source of fiber. If it contains 5 or more grams of fiber per serving, it is an excellent source of fiber.
- Is gluten in whole grains?
People who can’t eat wheat gluten can eat whole grains if they choose carefully. There are many whole-grain products, such as buckwheat, certified gluten-free oats or oatmeal, popcorn, brown rice, wild rice, and quinoa that fit gluten-free diet needs.
- Check for freshness
Buy whole-grain products that are tightly packaged and well-sealed. Grains should always look and smell fresh. Also, check the expiration date and storage guidelines on the package.
- Keep a lid on it
When storing whole grains from bulk bins, use containers with tight-fitting lids and keep in a cool, dry location. A sealed container is important for maintaining freshness and reducing bug infestations.
- Wrap it up
Whole-grain bread is best stored at room temperature in its original packaging, tightly closed with a quick-lock or twist tie. The refrigerator will cause bread to lose moisture quickly and become stale. Properly wrapped bread will store well in the freezer.
- Know the Shelf Life
Since the oil in various whole-grain flours differs, the shelf life varies too. Most whole-grain flours keep well in the refrigerator for 2 to 3 months and in the freezer for 6 to 8 months. Cooked brown rice can be refrigerated 3 to 5 days and can be frozen up to 6 months.
September is Whole Grains Month and the Florida Department of Health is educating on the positive benefits of eating the recommend daily amount of whole grains.