Quick. What’s a whole grain? What’s a whole grain food? How do you tell if a product in the supermarket is a a good source of whole grains.
If you don’t have a good answer, you’re not alone. There is plenty of consumer confusion when it comes to translating “eat more whole grains” to actual purchase and consumption. According to a recent study by Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) researchers, there are five different government and industry standards and guidelines for whole grain consumption. Each is slightly different:
- The Whole Grain Stamp, a food industry initiative, can be put on products with at least 8 grams of whole grains. But the product can be a calorie or sugar bomb too.
- FDA: Any whole grain as the first listed ingredient. Again, added sugars and fats don’t matter.
- USDA MyPlate: Any whole grain as the first ingredient without added sugars in the first three ingredients.
- USDA’s Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010: The word “whole” before any grain anywhere in the ingredient list. But that could mean only 5% of the grains in a product are whole.
- American Heart Association: The “10:1 ratio” recommends choosing products where for every 10 grams of carbs, you’ll have at least 1 gram of fiber. That’s the ration of carb to fiber in whole grain flour.
What you need to know:
1. Whole grains are important for several reasons. They ensure your body gets fiber from its original source, not as an added nutrient to a highly processed product. But they also provide tons of additional nutrients that enriched grain products cannot.
2. A product that boasts whole grains may not necessarily be a healthy choice for you. Case in point are cereals that have added sugars and artificial colors like this one:
3. A good way to ascertain that a sizable amount of whole grains has been used in a grain based product is that it is the first and ONLY grain ingredient listed in the ingredients. Look for a fiber content of 3 grams or more, without ingredients such as inulin listed in the ingredients.