W is for Whole Grain

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By: Randi Karlinsky MS, RDN, LDN, CHC, NASM-CPT

The USDA’s Dietary Guidelines for Americans’ recommendation is to “make half your grains whole grains”. A grain is considered whole when it is consumed in its “whole” form. This means the grain has not been processed and/or stripped of any of its anatomical components. A whole grain plant originates as a kernel or seed. Each seed has a complete anatomy with three main parts; germ, endosperm, and bran.

Germ:

The germ is where the grain originates with the potential to sprout into a new plant. It contains many B vitamins, protein, minerals, and healthy fats

Endosperm:

The endosperm is the seed’s food supply to provide the energy needed to extend its roots down into the soil for water, nutrients and continued growth. It is by far the largest part of the grain and contains starchy carbohydrates, protein, and small amounts of vitamins and minerals.

Bran:

The outer layer of the grain is known as the bran, which consists of multiple layers of protection. It contains antioxidants, B-vitamins, and fiber.

Refining a grain means stripping the seed of the bran and endosperm layers leaving just the germ. As you can see from above that also means removing a large amount of beneficial nutrients such antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, protein, and fiber. Instead, focus on making as many of your grains whole as possible.

Whole grains include:

  • Wheat

  • Brown rice

  • Buckwheat

  • Bulgur

  • Millet

  • Oats

  • Popcorn

  • Quinoa