We hear a lot about whole grains, including the USDA’s MyPlate message that recommends we make at least half our grains whole, but there may be individuals who wonder why it’s important to eat whole grains. According to MyPlate, “People who eat whole grains as part of a healthy diet have a reduced risk of some chronic diseases.”
Whole grains contain three parts: the bran, the germ and the endosperm. Refined grains such as white flour, white rice and white pasta only contain the endosperm. The bran is the outer shell that protects the seed. It contains B vitamins, fiber and trace minerals. The germ has B vitamins and vitamin E. The endosperm provides carbohydrates and protein which deliver energy. Eating the entire grain allows the benefits of all three parts to work together.
You’ll want to be sure that the products you choose are actually made from whole grains. Look for one of the following terms listed first on the ingredient label: Brown rice, bulgur, oatmeal, quinoa, rolled oats, whole grain barley, whole grain corn, whole grain oats, whole rye, whole wheat, and millet, to name a few.
Eating more whole grains provides energy for daily activities and lowers the risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, and some cancers.
Tips & Techniques
The following tips are helpful to adding more whole grains in your daily food pattern.
- Try 100% whole grain snack crackers.
- Popcorn is a whole grain snack. Three cups of whole grain, air-popped popcorn is a good source of fiber and has only 95 calories.
- Let children help select and prepare whole grain side dishes.
- Substitute up to one half of the white flour with whole grain flour when baking.
- Substitute whole-grain products for things you already buy. Try whole wheat pasta or brown rice.
- Use whole grain bread to make French toast; it has a hearty texture and tastes great.
- When making meatloaf or meatballs, use whole grain bread or cracker crumbs.
- Try an unsweetened, whole grain ready-to-eat cereal as croutons in salad.
- Use a crushed, unsweetened whole grain cereal or rolled oats as breading for baked chicken or fish.
The following recipes increase whole grains, are MyPlate savvy and easy to serve anytime.
Quinoa Corn Salad
Courtesy of the Whole Grains Council
- Cook quinoa or bulgur in broth for 12-15 minutes, until liquid is absorbed.
- While grain cooks, mix dressing ingredients in a large bowl.
- Add drained and rinsed beans, tomato and corn.
- Cool grain to room temperature, then mix with other ingredients; chill until ready to eat.
Nutrition Facts (per 1/2 cup): Calories: 292, Fat: 8.5g, Carbohydrates: 45g, Fiber: 12g, Protein: 13g, Sodium: 127mg, Cholesterol: 0mg. Serves 4.
Light as a Feather Whole Wheat Pancakes
Courtesy of the North Dakota State University Extension
- Preheat a griddle. In a medium bowl, stir dry ingredients together.
- In a separate bowl, beat egg, buttermilk, brown sugar, and oil together. Stir into dry ingredients just until moistened; batter should be slightly lumpy.
- Pour 1/4 cup batter for each pancake onto sprayed or seasoned hot griddle.
- Flip the pancake when bubbles appear on surface; turn only once.
Nutrition Facts (per 1 pancake): Calories: 80, Fat: 2g, Carbohydrates: 12g, Fiber: 1g, Protein: 3g, Sodium: 170mg. Makes (12) 4-inch pancakes.
For additional whole grain recipes, check out the Whole Grains Council’s Quick and Easy Whole Grain Recipes. The University of Minnesota Extension’s Building a Healthy Plate: Cooking with Whole Grains provides a diagram of a whole grain.
- Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Eat Right. How to Add Whole Grains to Your Diet. 2016.
- Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Eat Right. What is a Whole Grain? 2014.
- North Dakota State University Extension. Now Serving: More Whole Grains!. 2011.
- University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Neb Guide. MyPlate: Grains Group. 2012.