Whole grains are an important part of a healthy diet | NevadaAppeal.com

Whole grains are an important part of a healthy diet

Mary C. Koch

Father's Day is coming up. Dads, you take care of yourselves by eating plenty of whole grains to stay healthy.

Whole grain is a term that refers to the three parts of a grain: bran, germ and endosperm. It's fairly common to see products that just contain one of these components, especially the bran or germ as an ingredient in a food, but these foods would not be categorized as whole grain.

There are numerous studies with positive findings for increasing your intake of whole grain foods. These range from helping control blood sugar levels in diabetics to lowering the risk of colon cancer and reducing blood cholesterol levels. I'm very excited about one study in particular that linked a diet higher in whole grains with a decrease in abdominal fat. No matter how you look at it, increasing the amount of whole grains in your diet would be beneficial for your health.

So the next question is, what are whole grains and how do you find them? It's unfortunate that nutrition labels do not require the amount of whole grains to be listed on the label; until then there is the ingredient list. To identify a product that contains whole grains, simply look for the word "whole" next to the name of a grain, such as "whole wheat" as an example.

Other whole grains include amaranth, barley, buckwheat, corn (including cornmeal and popcorn), millet, oats, quinoa, brown or colored rice, rye, sorghum, teff, triticale, wheat and wild rice.

There are some foods that have taken the initiative and are identifying the amount of whole grains they contain, such as crackers and breakfast cereals. Usually somewhere on the front of the package will list the number of grams of whole grain per serving. Looking for these foods can help you choose more whole grains with little effort.

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Current dietary recommendations suggest consuming at least 48 grams of whole grain, or making half your grain servings whole each day. One serving of whole grain equals 16 grams (about 1 1/2 tablespoons of whole wheat flour). The exact amount of a food product that you would have to eat to get a serving of whole grain would vary based on any added refined grains in that product.

Keep in mind that a high fiber content does not necessarily translate to a high whole grain content, and vice versa. Although fiber and whole grains are both good things to include in a healthy diet, they are separate from each other and need to be evaluated individually. A cereal that is considered to be a good source of whole grains may contain very little fiber by comparison, but that does not take away from it's healthfulness.

For more information, I recommend you visit http://www.wholegrainscouncil.com to get the whole story.

Mary Koch is a registered dietitian at Banner Churchill Community Hospital and the VA Lahontan Valley Outpatient Clinic. Send your nutrition questions to Mary at news@lahontanvalleynews.com.