The Whole Grain with the Funny Name

Consumers are starting to understand the benefits of whole grains and are moving away from products containing refined/processed grains.

What makes whole grain better? Whole grains haven’t had their bran and germ removed, which makes them an excellent source of fiber. Refined grains, such as white flour and white rice, have the brand and germ removed. While vitamins and minerals are often added back in (this is usually where you see the word “enriched” or “fortified” on an ingredient label), they still don’t have as many nutrients or as much naturally occurring fiber as whole grains.  

It’s important to remember that whole wheat ≠ whole grain. Look for the words whole grain and stay away from enriched on ingredient labels. And, to be sure you are getting the maximum benefit, whole grain should appear at or near the top of the ingredient list.

According to the American Heart Association, there are numerous health and nutritional benefits associated with eating whole grains, including:     

  • Whole grains are generally good sources of dietary fiber; most refined (processed) grains contain little fiber.
  • Dietary fiber from whole grains, as part of an overall healthy diet, helps reduce blood cholesterol levels and may lower risk of heart disease.
  • Fiber-containing foods such as whole grains help provide a feeling of fullness with fewer calories and so may help with weight management.

For more information on whole grains, you can visit the American Heart Association’s web site at: 

For some people there is the need or desire to stay away from gluten – which is found in wheat, barley and rye. But eliminating gluten should not keep you from enjoying the benefits of other whole grains as there are many to choose from that provide an excellent source of fiber, minerals and protein.    

Quinoa with Garlic, Pine Nuts and Raisins (photo courtesy of Food Network)

One of these options is quinoa (pronounced keen-wa). Quinoa originates from the Andean region of South American and has been around for 6,000 years. Quinoa, while technically not a grain (it’s a seed from a dark green leafy plant and is related to beets and spinach), is called a grain because of its texture. Because quinoa contains all of the essential amino acids it is considered a complete protein. Quinoa is very versatile and is prepared the same way as rice but cooks faster. Nutritionally, it is an excellent source of magnesium and fiber and a good source of iron and several B vitamins. You can see a complete nutritional profile by checking out the Nutrition Data web site.

Quinoa can be used in many dishes from salads to side dishes to stuffing. For quinoa recipes, check out these web sites: 

In addition to quinoa, there are several other nutritious whole grains you might want to try. For instance: 

  • Barley
  • Brown Rice
  • Buckwheat
  • Bulgar
  • Kamut
  • Millet
  • Oatmeal
  • Popcorn
  • Spelt
  • Wild Rice

As each whole grain has a different nutritional profile it’s a good idea to vary the types of grains you eat. And remember, when reading ingredient labels, be sure to look for these whole grains at the top of the ingredient list so you can get the most benefit from this essential part of a healthy diet.

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April 2020