September is here which means that summer heat is coming to an end and the chill of the fall is soon to set in (depending on that Missouri humidity). Chilly fall days often call for cozy comfort foods. Give your comfort dishes a nutritional boost with whole grains.
Did you know that the month of September is dedicated to celebrating whole grains? Arguably, whole grains might be one of the most underrated health foods on the market. In this month’s blog, we’ll talk whole grains 101, why whole grains are often the healthier choice, how to find whole grains, and ways to incorporate whole grains into your daily routine.
Whole Grains 101
So what is a whole grain? By definition, a whole grain is made with or containing whole unprocessed grain. But what does that really mean? All grains are grown naturally in the whole-grain form. A grain has three major parts: the bran, the endosperm, and the germ. The bran is the outer shell of the grain that contains B-vitamins and most of the fiber. The endosperm contains carbohydrate and small amounts of vitamins and minerals. Finally, the germ contains the bulk of the B-vitamins, protein, and healthy fats in the grain.
Why Are Whole Grains The Healthier Choice?
Refined grains were created in the early 1800s to create a more edible and longer lasting grain product. To refine a grain, the germ and the bran are removed, only leaving the endosperm. Now if we recall from above, the germ and the bran have the bulk of the fiber and nutrients of the grain. So through refining, the grain loses some nutrition and fiber. According to the Whole Grain Council, “Without the bran and germ, about 25% of a grain’s protein is lost, and are greatly reduced in at least seventeen key nutrients.”
As dietitians, we often recommend choosing whole grain versions of grains and starches in order to get the most nutrition and fiber from our foods. Fiber can help promote fullness, increase digestive health, and regulate blood sugars, while B-vitamins can help give us energy, and promote brain health.
Finding Whole Grains
So how can you find whole grains? Many grains like amaranth, barley, bulgur, corn, farro, oats, quinoa, brown rice, or sorghum are often found in their whole grain form. The tricky part is finding whole grains within packaged foods or bread and pasta products.
Don't be fooled by the product color or descriptions like wheat or multi-grain. Use these two simple ways to know if you are getting a whole grain:
Including Whole Grains In Your Daily Routine
The 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend making half of your grain intake from whole grains. Simple ways to incorporate more whole grains in your diet are:
As promised, we have also included some healthy, whole grain, comfort recipes for you to try in these upcoming chilly months!
This month, aim to make at least half of your grains those hearty whole grains. What steps will you take to make whole grains a regular part of your diet? Let us know in the comments!
Written by Katie Gallagher, MA, RDN, LD