How to find whole grains
Whole grains can reduce the risk of diseases, but separating real from fake can be confusing.
This story was originally covered by PRI's Here and Now. For more, listen ot the audio above.
Whole grains are healthy. The Federal Government says that there's evidence that whole grains can reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases and also type-2 diabetes, among other health benefits.
The problem is that not everyone realizes that they're not getting enough whole grains. Beth Teitell of The Boston Globe cites statistics showing that: "While 61 percent of people think they're actually eating the recommended daily amount of whole grains, only 5 percent of people are."
The problem is may be confusion. Teitell says, "It's really confusing when you go to the grocery store, because all these things are calling out to you -- multigrain, whole wheat this, whole wheat that -- unless you're really educated and know what to look for, it's not that hard to get tricked."
When checking the nutrition label, people should look for "whole wheat" or "whole" something else. "If it just says 'wheat flour' that's a big dodge," according to Teitell, "because if it's a wheat product, of course it's going to have wheat flour."
Whole grains simply means that every part of the grain is included in the food. Most foods, though, contain refined grains, which are milled to give them a finer texture and improve shelf life. The problem is that the processing removes dietary fiber, iron and other B vitamins. "Enriched" grains try to add some of the healthy elements back in, but they still don't have the fiber and other good elements of whole grains.
Brown rice, buckwheat and oatmeal are great sources of whole grains, according to Teitell. It's worth being careful, though. Sugar cereals like Count Chocula and Trix offer whole grains, but the benefits are often offset by the sugar in the cereals.
"There's a lot of whole grains fear" among people, according to Teitell. Some people think whole grains won't taste good, but Teitell points out "the manufactures have started putting research and development money into whole grains so that the products actually taste a lot better than they used to."
Others have complained of "funny tummy" when they up their fiber. "If you up your fiber consumption, you're going to notice it," Teitell admits. "So the advice there is to do it slowly. I guess kind of like coming up from deep water so you don't get the bends."
The best way to get more whole grains in people's diets is to start young, according to Teitell. "We should really start kids earlier," she says, "because then people would just be used to it."
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