What are whole grains?
Whole grains are defined as grains that contain all of the naturally occurring nutrients of the entire grain seed. Every whole grain kernel consists of 3 parts: bran, endosperm and germ. Each part provides different nutrients and other components that contribute to the health promoting benefits:
- Bran – outer layer of the grain that contains fiber, antioxidants, B vitamins, phytochemicals, and 50-80% of minerals in grains like iron, copper, zinc, magnesium
- Endosperm- middle largest layer containing mostly carbohydrates, protein, and small amounts of some B vitamins and minerals
- Germ – inner component containing healthy fats, B vitamins, phytochemicals, and antioxidants like vitamin E
What are refined grains?
Refined grains are whole grains that have had some or most of the germ and the bran removed. This results in a loss of fiber, vitamins and minerals.
The Role of whole grains in our diet
Studies show that whole grains over refined grains have the following advantages:
- Dietary fiber from whole grains or other foods, may help reduce blood cholesterol levels and may lower risk of heart disease, obesity, and type 2 diabetes.
- Whole grains are sources of magnesium and selenium. Magnesium is a mineral used in building bones and releasing energy from muscles. Selenium protects cells from oxidation, which may reduce risk of some cancers. It is also important for a healthy immune system.
- The B vitamins thiamin, riboflavin, and niacin play a key role in metabolism – they help the body release energy from protein, fat, and carbohydrates. B vitamins are also essential for a healthy nervous system.
- Promote bowel and gastrointestinal health.
Examples of Whole Grains
- Corn, including whole cornmeal and popcorn
- Oats, including oatmeal
- oat bran
- whole wheat