The Skinny On Whole Grains
Searching your supermarket for whole-grain foods can be confusing-especially
since an oat waffle may be packed with whole grains, but a slice of 100 percent
wheat bread isn't. Here, tips for separating the wheat from the chaff.
* Seek out the bright-yellow Whole Grain Council stamp. It was launched by
the WGC in 2005 and states exactly how many grams of whole grains are contained
in a serving of the product. Found on more than 600 packaged items, the stamp
isn't an official standard and isn't endorsed by the FDA. But it's a clear,
legitimate indicator of just how much whole grain you're getting.
* Beware of buzzwords. Even though breads and crackers may be labeled as
multigrain, 9-grain, and 12-grain, there's no guarantee that any of them are
whole grain. These foods may contain highly processed grains-stripped of much
of their fiber and nutrients-rather than whole grains. The best way to verify
that a product has whole grains is to scrutinize the ingredients panel
carefully. If an item is whole grain, the word whole will typically precede the
grain's name, i.e., whole rye or whole cornmeal. Which is why a loaf that's
labeled 100% wheat bread, or that lists wheat flour in the ingredients, falls
* Go easy on the sweet stuff. Manufacturers are slapping the words whole
grains on newly reformulated foods that are marginally nutritious at best. Yes,
some cookies, for instance, contain whole-grain flour, but that doesn't offset
all the sugar, fat, and calories. Remember: Whole-grain junk food is still junk
A Grain Glossary
Whole grains are the most minimally processed versions of any grain. All the
edible parts-the bran, the endosperm, and the germ-are intact, just the way the
grain grows in the field. The majority of the grains that we eat today are
refined, a process that strips away many of the nutrients. Whole grains, in
contrast, retain all their fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Nearly every
supermarket now stocks even the exotic varieties like quinoa and wheat berries
(see the glossary below for info on these once obscure whole grains). Store in
tightly covered containers, and refrigerate during the warmer months.
Amaranth is a tiny grain native to Mexico. It's one of the few whole grains
that contain all of the essential amino acids, making it an ideal source of
protein. Choose it as a hot cereal, add to soups as a thickener, or use as a
flour in pancakes and quick breads.
Buckwheat isn't actually a wheat, but a fruit seed in the rhubarb family.
It's quick-cooking, gluten-free, and a good source of fiber and magnesium. Most
familiar to Americans in the form of buckwheat pancakes, it's a grain with
global popularity, found in everything from Japanese soba noodles to Russian