Get healthy with whole grains

October 12, 2005|by LYNN F. LITTLE

In the nutrition world, whole grains are "hot" - the right carbs for all the right reasons. Whole grains have substantial health benefits. If you want to maintain a healthy weight and a healthy heart, you definitely need whole grains on your plate. The good news for your taste buds is that there are dozens of whole grain products to enjoy.

Research has linked eating at least three ounces of whole grains per day with healthier weights, slimmer waistlines, less heart disease and lower blood pressure. That's why says to "make half your grains whole."

The 2005 U.S. Department of Agriculture dietary guidelines also recommend a minimum of 3 ounces of whole grains every day. If you eat more than six servings of grains a day, follow the tip to "make half your grains whole."

Need help determining what makes an ounce of grain? A one-ounce serving is one regular slice of bread, one cup of breakfast cereal, or one-half cup of cooked brown rice or whole grain pasta.

  • Eat wholesome breads. Whole grain breads make hearty toast in the morning, sandwiches at lunch, and flavorful rolls for dinner.

  • Eat wholesome cereals. Most major companies are adding more whole grains to their cereals. A note of caution: "Made with Whole Grains" is not a guarantee of good nutrition. Read ingredient lists on grain products carefully. Many food packages, like cereals, tout that they are "made with whole grains." These words alone do not guarantee that the product is nutrient rich or health enhancing. Some of these cereals still are nearly half sugar - their No. 1 ingredient. Choose cereals with a whole grain as the first ingredient.

To get real whole grain goodness for your family, check ingredient lists on grain foods carefully. Choose products that have a whole grain as the first ingredient on the list. You also can look for products that say 100 percent whole grain - meaning no refined flour.

Whole wheat, whole oats, brown rice and popcorn are the most familiar whole grains on American tables. Your taste buds will be glad to learn that there is a whole world of other grains waiting to be enjoyed - from amaranth and barley to quinoa and spelt.

Whole grains make good side dishes for dinner meals. One example is to cook a half-and-half mixture of pearled barley and brown rice together.

To learn more about different grains, visit You can read thumbnail sketches of grains from A-to-Z, learn about their health benefits, find general cooking directions for whole grains and link to simple recipes.

Lynn F. Little is a family and consumer sciences educator with Maryland Cooperative Extension in Washington County.

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