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Nutritional Benefits of Whole Grains

Grains are great! They provide many nutrients that are vital for the health and maintenance of our bodies. Grains are divided into two subgroups, whole grains and refined grains. Whole grains contain the entire grain kernel - the bran, endosperm and germ. Whole grain foods are either the whole seed (brown rice, oats, corn, quinoa) of a plant or made from all the parts of a whole seed. Whole grains provide great sources of vitamins and fiber. Refined grains have been milled, a process that removes the bran and the germ. Most refined grains are enriched. This means that some nutrients are added back to the grain; fiber is not added back to enriched grains.

Whole grains contain B vitamins, such as thiamin, riboflavin, and niacin. Whole grains also have fiber, which helps with digestion. The USDA’s MyPlate recommends that we make at least half our grains whole.

How Many Grain Foods Are Needed Daily?

The MyPlate Daily Checklist provides a personalized food plan; this includes the amounts you need from each food group. For most people, five to six ounces of grains are recommended each day. What counts as an ounce of grains? In general, 1 slice of bread, 1 cup of ready-to-eat cereal, or 1/2 cup of cooked rice, cooked pasta, or cooked cereal can be considered as 1 ounce-equivalent from the Grains Group. Not all brown breads are whole grain. Food products labeled with words such as wheat flour, multi-grain, and 100% wheat are not always whole grain products. A whole grain should be listed as the first ingredient on the food item. Whole wheat flour is an example of a whole grain.

Easy Ways to Add More Whole Grains

  • To eat more whole grains, substitute a whole-grain product for a refined product. An example is eating whole-wheat bread instead of white bread or brown rice in place of white rice.
  • Make cooked oatmeal for breakfast.
  • Pack whole grain breakfast cereal, crackers, bagels or pretzels in your tote bag or backpack for a snack that is ready any time.
  • Popcorn is a whole grain snack. Make it with little or no added salt or butter.
  • Enjoy a 1/2 cup whole grain pasta salad instead of French fries at lunch.
  • Add whole grain pasta or rice to soup, casseroles or stew. Be aware that they take longer to cook because of the bran and germ.
  • Make trail mix using whole grain cereals, dried fruit and nuts.
  • Try using half whole grain and half all-purpose flour when making cookies or other baked treats.  
  • When making meatloaf or meatballs, use whole grain bread or cracker crumbs.
  • Use whole grain bread to make French toast; it has a hearty texture and tastes great.
  • Try brown rice stuffing in baked green peppers.

Try the following whole grain recipes. They are easy to serve anytime.

Light as a Feather Whole Wheat Pancakes
Courtesy: Wheat Foods Council


  • 1-1/3 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 large egg
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1-1/3 cups buttermilk
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 tablespoon oil


  1. Preheat griddle.
  2. In medium bowl, stir or sift dry ingredients together; beat egg, buttermilk, brown sugar and oil together. Stir into dry ingredients just until moistened; batter should be slightly lumpy.
  3. Pour ¼ cup batter for each cake onto a well-seasoned hot griddle. Flip the pancake when bubbles appear on surface; turn only once.

Nutrition Facts: each pancake: Calories: 78, Fat: 2g, Carbohydrates: 12g, Dietary Fiber: 2g, Protein: 3g, Sodium: 178mg. Makes (12) 4-inch pancakes.

Awesome Granola
Courtesy: What’s Cooking USDA Mixing Bowl 


  • 3 cups oatmeal (uncooked)
  • 1/2 cup coconut (shredded or flaked)
  • 1 cup pecans (chopped, walnuts or peanuts)
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup margarine (melted)
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 2/3 cup raisins


  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Combine all ingredients in a large bowl, except raisins, mix well.
  3. Bake in 13x9 inch baking pan for 25-30 minutes or until golden brown. Stir every 5 minutes.
  4. Stir in raisins. Cool thoroughly. Store in tightly covered container.

Nutrition Facts: Calories: 239, Fat: 13g, Carbohydrates: 28g, Dietary Fiber: 4, Protein: 4g, Sodium: 47mg. Serves 12.

More Ideas

For additional information about grains, check out University of Florida IFAS Extension’s Eating Whole Grains. Are you looking for quick, easy, and delicious grain recipes? See North Dakota State University Extension’s Now Serving: More Whole Grains Recipes.


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