Whole Grains Guide

 Recipes, Cooking Tips and Nutrition Information for Healthy, Whole-Grain Foods

Whole Grain BreadsWhole grains factor into every global cuisine, yet most of us could benefit from getting more of these nutritious gems into our daily diet. Unlike the refined white flour in most processed food, whole grains contain plenty of fiber, vitamins and minerals, while being low in calories. Besides being great for your health, whole grains come in a diverse array of rich, nutty flavors and satisfying textures.

Whole grains are also versatile, with a wide range of flavors and textures to complement many dishes, both sweet and savory — and even gluten-free. They work as marvelously in hot breakfast cereals and cold breakfast muffins as they do in popped snacks, side dishes, breads and casseroles. Plus, they’re inexpensive and filling. You can make whole grains the star of the meal or hide them in your favorite recipes.

Since its inception in 1970, MOTHER EARTH NEWS has been a leading source of information on natural, whole grains. Perhaps you want to learn to grow or harvest your own grain, grind it with your own home flour mill or find out which grain mills are best. MOTHER is your source. If you’re interested in learning how to cook whole grains to their best advantage or simply want to discover some delicious whole-grain recipes, we’ve got you covered. We’ll also introduce you to some of the best whole grain suppliers around the country, plus a number of cookbooks and other resources to help you get started cooking everything from amaranth, barley and bulgur to farro, quinoa and wild rice. 

What Are Whole Grains? 

A whole-grain kernel is comprised of three parts: the germ, the bran and the endosperm. In conventional grain refining, most of the bran and germ are removed, resulting in the loss of dietary fiber, vitamins, minerals, lignans, phytoestrogens, phenolic compounds and phytic acid. In addition to helping maintain healthy body weight, these key nutrients can reduce the risk of several chronic diseases, including type 2 diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular disease, stroke, gall bladder disease, respiratory dysfunction, gout, osteoarthritis, certain types of cancers and premature death.

Dietary Guidelines and Whole Grains

USDA Whole Grains GuidelinesEvery five years, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) release dietary suggestions for Americans. Over the years, the “basic food groups” have remained largely unchanged, but in 2005, whole grains finally got their due. In order to combat the onslaught of advertising for and the widespread availability of junk foods, the organizations hoped to arm Americans with the knowledge necessary to take control of their collective health. The newest dietary guidelines emphasize that most Americans are overweight. They also maintain that obesity is worst among America’s children and adolescents, and that all this excess body fat is linked with a long list of life-threatening illnesses. 

In order to forestall this epidemic, the guidelines encourage not only getting more exercise, eating more fruits and vegetables and eating far fewer trans fats, but also consuming many more whole grains. Prior to 2005, the guidelines maintained six to 11 servings of grain, including pasta and rice, as an appropriate daily intake. Meanwhile, they had nothing to say about how these foods were made. Now, the USDA and HHS think Americans should eat less refined grain in favor of more whole grain. The 2010 dietary guidelines report states:

  • Limit the consumption of foods that contain refined grains, especially refined grain foods that contain solid fats, added sugars, and sodium. Whenever possible, replace refined grains with whole grains.
  • Consume at least half of all grains as whole grains. Increase whole grain intake by replacing refined grains with whole grains. (For most Americans,
  • Choose foods that provide more potassium, dietary fiber, calcium, and vitamin D, which are nutrients of concern in American diets. These foods include vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and milk and milk products.
  • Americans should aim to replace many reined grain foods with whole-grain foods that are in their nutrient-dense forms to keep total calorie intake within limits. When reined grains are eaten, they should be enriched. 

How to Increase Whole Grain Intake, according to the USDA and HHS:  

Whole Wheat Flour vs White Flour
  • Substitute whole-grain choices for refined grains in breakfast cereals, breads, crackers, rice, and pasta. For example, choose 100 percent whole-grain breads; whole-grain cereals such as oatmeal; whole-grain crackers and pasta; and brown rice.
  • Check the ingredients list on product labels for the words “whole” or “whole grain” before the grain ingredient’s name. Note that foods labeled with the words “multi-grain,” “stone-ground,” “100% wheat,” “cracked wheat,” “seven-grain,” or “bran” are usually not 100 percent whole-grain products, and may not contain any whole grains.
  • Use the Nutrition Facts label and the ingredients list to choose whole grains that are a good or excellent source of dietary fiber. Good sources of fiber contain 10 to 19 percent of the Daily Value per serving, and excellent sources of dietary fiber contain 20 percent or more. 

How to Decrease Refined Grain Intake, according to the USDA and HHS:  

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