What You Need to Know About Healthy and Unhealthy Grain Products

Not all grains are created equal! This probably doesn’t come as a huge surprise, but the truth is that some are definitely better than others. Whole, natural grains are always the best, while you want to steer clear of anything too refined or processed. That’s easy if you’re buying regular grains—rice, barley, quinoa, millet, etc.—but what about buying grain products, such as bread? Here is what you need to know about these various products and the titles used to describe them:

Whole

Anything labeled “whole” or including the words “100% whole grain” or “whole-grain” will usually be fairly good for you. Read the labels and see if the first ingredient is a grain. If so, that will typically mean the grain used will be whole. Products with the “whole” label are going to be your best choice when shopping for anything made with grain.

Made with Whole Grains

This is a bit of a different story, however! All manufacturers have to do to earn this label is ensure that whole grains were used in the production of whatever food product you’re eating. There are no standards of just how much whole grain has to be used, however, so you have no way to know just how much is refined and how much is whole. You’re better off putting a product with this label back on the shelf.

Whole-Grain Food

Anything labeled “whole-grain food” must contain at least 51% whole grains. However, that doesn’t mean that they are particularly rich in fiber. Whole grain breads, for example, contain a lot of water and liquids, and they tend to be fairly low in fiber compared to other grain products. This is a handy alternative if there’s nothing that’s “100% whole grain”, but it’s definitely not your first choice.

Excellent Source of Fiber

In order to be able to use this wording on their label, product manufacturers need to ensure that their food delivers at least 5 grams of fiber in every serving of the food. If the label reads “good source of fiber”, it means each serving delivers at least 2.5 grams of fiber. This is a good way to make sure you know exactly how much fiber you’re getting in the grain products you eat.

Graham Flour

Graham flour is a form of whole wheat flour, so it is a whole-grain product that you can usually trust. However, it’s always best to read over the list of ingredients and the nutritional info so you know exactly what you’re getting in terms of fiber and mineral content.

Multi-Grain

This is a label usually slapped onto products to make it appear healthy, but the truth is that it’s often just a façade. All it means is that more than one type of grain, but it says nothing about whether that grain is whole or highly refined. You’ll definitely want to check the ingredients list and the nutritional data on the products so you know exactly what you’re putting in your body.

Enriched

This just means that vitamins and minerals have been added back into the product after it was stripped and refined. However, it won’t contain any of the natural fiber. You’re definitely better off skipping any enriched products!

100% Wheat

All this means is that it’s made with wheat flour, almost always refined and highly processed. It’s as healthy as white bread, which is also made with 100% wheat flour. Skip it in favor of products that include the word “whole” in the label!

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