Whole grains vs. refined grains

Whole grains vs. refined grains

Whole grains haven't had their bran and germ removed by milling, making them better sources of fiber — the part of plant-based foods that your body doesn't digest. Among many health benefits, a high-fiber diet also tends to make a meal feel more filling and linger longer, so you stay full for a greater amount of time.

Refined grains, such as white rice or white flour, have both the bran and germ removed from the grain. Although vitamins and minerals are added back into refined grains after the milling process, they still don't have as many nutrients as whole grains do, and they don't provide as much fiber.

Rice, bread, cereal, flour and pasta are all grains or grain products. Eat whole-grain versions — rather than refined grains — as often as possible.

Whole grains Refined grains
  • Barley
  • Brown rice
  • Buckwheat
  • Bulgur (cracked wheat)
  • Millet
  • Oatmeal
  • Popcorn
  • Whole-wheat bread, pasta or crackers
  • Wild rice
  • Corn flakes
  • Couscous
  • Enriched macaroni or spaghetti
  • Grits
  • Pretzels
  • White bread (refined)
  • White rice

Ways to enjoy more whole grains

Many foods made from whole grains come ready to eat. These include a variety of breads, pasta products and ready-to-eat cereals. Look for the word "whole" on the package and in the ingredient list. Make sure whole grains appear among the first items listed. Try to choose items with at least 3 grams of dietary fiber per serving.

New white whole-wheat bread makes it even easier to add whole grains to your diet. White whole-wheat bread looks and tastes like white bread but has the same nutritional benefits as regular whole-wheat or whole-grain bread. The difference between white whole wheat and regular whole wheat is in the type of wheat used. Regular whole-wheat bread is made with red wheat, which is dark in color and has a slightly bitter taste. White whole-wheat bread is made with an albino variety of wheat, which is lighter in color and has a sweeter, milder flavor. To get a softer texture, the whole grains of albino wheat go through an extra processing procedure.

Other easy ways to add whole grains to your meals and snacks include:

  • Enjoy breakfasts that include high-fiber cereals, such as bran flakes, shredded wheat or oatmeal.
  • Substitute whole-wheat toast or whole-grain bagels for plain bagels. Substitute low-fat, multigrain muffins for pastries.
  • Make sandwiches using whole-grain breads or rolls.
  • Expand your grain repertoire with whole-grain complements, such as kasha, brown rice, wild rice, bulgur or whole-wheat tortillas.
  • Feature wild rice or barley in soups, stews, casseroles and salads.
  • Add whole grains, such as cooked brown rice or whole-grain bread crumbs, to ground meat or poultry for extra body.
  • Use rolled oats or crushed bran cereal in recipes instead of dry bread crumbs.
  • Toast grains to bring out their nutty flavor before adding them to recipes.

As they've been for centuries, grains remain the staff of life forming the basis for many healthy meals and snacks. Eating a variety of whole grains not only ensures that you get more nutrients, but also helps make your meals and snacks more interesting.


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