28212 Health Library | Health and Wellness | Wellmont Health System
  • The Whole Scoop on Whole Versus Refined Grains

    IMAGE Are you hesitant about having that slice of bread, bowl of cereal, or plate of pasta? In an era of low carbohydrate diets and numerous warnings about the role of grains in weight gain, it is easy to see why. But the good news is that there is only a grain of truth to the bad press about grains.
    What you need to do is cut back on refined grains and eat more whole grains. Here is why.

    Crude Facts About Refined Grains

    The grains that make up the typical American diet are highly refined. The refining process results in the loss of vitamins, minerals, and dietary fiber. What this means is the most nutritious part of the grain is removed during the milling process. It also strips them of disease-fighting components like B vitamins, iron, vitamin E, selenium, and fiber. Examples of refined grain products include:
    • White breads
    • Baked goods
    • White pasta
    • Crackers
    • White rice
    • Many of the cereals on the grocery shelf
    Many refined grain products are enriched, which means that some of the nutrients such as niacin, riboflavin, thiamin, and iron, are added back. However, enrichment does not restore important dietary fiber and other nutrients that are lost during the milling process.

    Why Whole Grains Are More Wholesome

    Whole grains are what they are called. They include all 3 parts that make up the entire grain: the bran, the endosperm, and the germ. Because they have not gone through the refining process, they are good sources of dietary fiber, B vitamins, iron, zinc, magnesium, vitamin E, and selenium.
    Whole grains can help with the following:

    Choosing Whole Grains

    Examples of whole grains include the following:
    • Whole wheat
    • Barley
    • Brown rice
    • Bulgur
    • Corn
    • Whole oats
    • Quinoa
    • Rye
    • Amaranth
    • Buckwheat
    • Millet
    • Spelt
    How do you know if a product has whole grain? Do not rely on the name or appearance of the product. Bread may be brown because it contains molasses, brown sugar, or food coloring, not because it is whole wheat. Product names that conjure up images of health and “back to nature” can still be made with mainly white, refined flour. Your best chance of getting whole grain is to learn to be a shrewd label reader.

    Look at Ingredients

    Look at the ingredient list on the product. You should find whole grain or whole wheat. Note that ingredients are listed in descending order by weight. So the higher up on the list the more whole grain is in the product. If white flour is the first ingredient, that means that, by weight, there is more white flour than any other kind of flour in the product. If whole grain or whole wheat is listed first you have a product with 100% whole grains, but don't dismiss products that have these options listed further down the ingredient list. They can contribute to your overall whole grain count.

    Don’t Be Fooled

    Do not be deceived by the list of ingredients or advertising on the product labels. Here are some things that you may find on a label, but they may not be whole grain products:
    • Wheat flour
    • Stoned wheat
    • Made with whole wheat
    • Made with whole grain
    • Made with oatmeal
    This does not tell you how much whole wheat, whole grain, or oatmeal is in the product. You may find that it is near the bottom of the ingredient list.

    Eating More Whole Grains

    There are many benefits to eating more whole grains. They’re more nutritious, healthful, and filling than refined grains, and have more texture and flavor.
    The USDA dietary recommendation from 2010 recommends consuming a minimum of 3-4 ounces of whole-grain products per day for adults. At least half of your total intake of grains should be from whole grains.
    Stock your pantry with whole grain cereals, brown rice, whole grain bread, and whole wheat pasta, crackers, breads, and rolls.
    For more information on how to make the simple switch to whole grain products, click here.


    American Dietetic Association http://www.eatright.org/

    ChooseMyPlate.gov http://www.choosemyplate.gov/


    Dietitians of Canada http://www.dietitians.ca/

    Health Canada http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/


    American Gastroenterological Association website. Available at: http://www.gastro.org/. Accessed November 16, 2012.

    Choose Whole Grains. American Dietetic Association website.. Available at: http://www.eatright.org/Public/content.aspx?id=6442471695&terms=whole+grains. Accessed November 16, 2012.

    Dietary Considerations for Patients with Type 2 Diabetes. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed/what.php. Updated August 7, 2012. Accessed November 16, 2012.

    Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010. US Department of Agriculture and US Department of Health and Human Services. Available at: http://www.cnpp.usda.gov/Publications/DietaryGuidelines/2010/PolicyDoc/PolicyDoc.pdf. Accessed November 16, 2012.

    Dietary Recommendations for Cardiovascular Disease Prevention. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed/what.php. Updated November 14, 2012. Accessed November 16, 2012.

    Food groups: How many grain foods are needed daily? United States Department of Agriculture, Choose MyPlate website. Available at: http://www.choosemyplate.gov/foodgroups/grains%5Famount%5Ftable.html. Accessed November 16, 2012.

    Get on the Grain Train. Dietary Guidelines for Americans. USDA Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion website. Available at: http://www.cnpp.usda.gov/Publications/DietaryGuidelines/2000/2000DGBrochureGrainTrain.pdf. Accessed November 16, 2012.

    McKeown N, et.al. Whole grain intake is favorably associated with metabolic risk factors for type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease in the Framingham Offspring Study. Am J Clin Nutr . 2002;76:390-398.

    Understanding Constipation. American Gastroenterological Association website. Available at: http://www.gastro.org/patient-center/digestive-conditions/constipation. Updated july 2007. Accessed November 16, 2012.

    Whole Grains Are Good for Your Whole Body. American Dietetic Association website. Available at: http://www.eatright.org/Public/content.aspx?id=6442471653&terms=whole+grains. Accessed November 16, 2012.

    Revision Information

  • Join WellZones today.

    Make a Change For LifeLearn more

    Wellmont LiveWell is creating a new tradition of wellness in the mountains by providing individuals with tools and encouragement to live healthier lifestyles.

  • HeartSHAPE Spotlight

    At risk for a heart attack? Learn more

    Fight heart disease early and prevent heart attacks with HeartSHAPE® - a painless, non-invasive test that takes pictures of your heart to scan for early-stage coronary disease.

  • Calories and Energy Needs

    Calorie NeedsLearn more

    How many calories do you need to eat each day to maintain your weight and fuel your physical activity? Enter a few of your stats into this calculator to find out.

  • Ideal Body Weight

    Ideal Body WeightLearn more

    Using body mass index as a reference, this calculator determines your ideal body weight range. All you need to do is enter your height.

  • Body Mass Index

    Body Mass IndexLearn more

    This tool considers your height and weight to assess your weight status.

  • Can we help answer your questions?

    Wellmont Nurse Connection is your resource for valuable health information any time, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Speak to a Nurse any time, day or night, at (423) 723-6877 or toll-free at 1-877-230-NURSE.