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For Better Living: Go for Whole Grains

By Sandra Cain

Sandra CainWith so many choices, it can be hard to sift through the variety of grain products to find the healthiest options. Having a basic understanding of the different types of grain products will help set you on the right path.

Whole Grain. Whole grains have all of the edible parts of the grain intact.  This includes the bran, the germ and the endosperm. Whole wheat, oatmeal and brown rice are all examples of whole grains.

Refined Grain. Refined grains are milled to remove the bran and germ. They are missing the valuable B vitamins, iron and fiber of whole grains. White bread, white rice and products made with white flour are examples of refined grains, or foods made with refined grains.

Enriched Grain. To make up for lost B vitamins and iron, enriched grains are simply refined grains that have added thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, folic acid and iron. Fiber is not added back.

Health Benefits of Whole Grains

Because of the valuable nutrients found in whole grains, the health benefits are endless! Whole grains have B vitamins, iron and fiber, but they also have vitamin E, magnesium and disease-fighting phytochemicals.

Whole grains may:

**Protect against heart disease and stroke

**Lower total and LDL (bad) cholesterol

**Reduce the risk of developing many types of cancer, type 2 diabetes and obesity

**Aid in weight loss because whole grains help you feel full longer

Fitting in Whole Grains

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans suggest that at least half of the grain servings you eat every day should be whole grains.  Most of us need about 6 servings of grain a day so at least 3 should be whole grain.  Adults in the U.S. consume an average of almost 7 servings of grain products per day.  On average, only 1 of these is whole-grain.

To eat more whole grains, try some of these ideas:

**Whole-grain breakfast cereals

**Whole-grain instead of white bread

**Brown instead of white rice

**Snacks such as popcorn, brown rice cakes or yogurt parfaits made with low-fat granola

**Whole-wheat flour in place of half of the white flour in baked goods

**Rolled oats added to cookie batter.

Identifying Whole Grains

Don’t be fooled by the packaging on grains! Follow these tips.

**Look for the words “whole” or “whole grain” as the FIRST ingredient on the ingredient list.  “100 % Wheat” sounds great, but is that wheat whole wheat?  Probably not.  Saying that a product is 100% wheat only indicates that the grain in the product is wheat.

**Dark color is not proof that the product is whole grain. Not all brown bread is whole wheat. Color may have been added to make the product look like it is whole grain.

**Words such as “multigrain” or “stoneground” are not indicators of a whole-grain product. There can be 50 different grains in a product, making it multigrain, but none of those grains have to be whole grains.

Source:  North Carolina Cooperative Extension and Eat Right Montana

Vegetables with Brown Rice

¼ cup chopped walnuts

3 teaspoons canola oil, divided

1 medium sweet red pepper, julienned

1 cup broccoli florets

1 medium zucchini, sliced

1 medium yellow squash, sliced

¾ cup frozen peas

3 tablespoons water

1 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon pepper

2 cups hot cooked brown rice

3 tablespoons minced fresh parsley

In a large nonstick skillet, sauté walnuts in 1 teaspoon oil for 2 minutes or until lightly toasted. Remove walnuts and set aside.

In the same skillet, sauté the pepper and broccoli in remaining oil for 1 minute.  Add the zucchini and yellow squash.  Saute 1 minute longer.  Stir in the peas, water, salt and pepper.  Reduce heat. Cover and simmer for 5 minutes or until vegetables are tender. Combine rice and parsley.  Arrange on a serving platter.  Top with vegetables and nuts.  Yield:  8 servings.

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