What are whole grain foods and why are they so good for you?

For the less nutritional ‘white’ food products made using these grains, the seeds are milled to remove the bran and the germ, leaving the starchy middle behind. These grains are then referred to as ‘refined’ grains.

Why is whole grain food healthier?

The majority of vitamins, minerals and nutrients that come from whole grains are found in both the bran and the germ; around three quarters, in fact. When the bran and germ are removed for the production of refined grains, so too are these nutrients, which are incredibly beneficial for our bodies.

As such, when the whole of the grain (whole grain food) is consumed, many more of these vitamins and nutrients are absorbed by the body, making whole grains much healthier and beneficial to us than the refined parts of the grain alone.  

Fitting whole grains into your daily diet

Simple switches and additions to your meals can help to increase the amount of whole grains you consume. Not only that, but with a wide selection of whole grains available on shelves, you can easily enjoy whole grain food for breakfast, lunch and dinner!

Look out for wheat, rice, barley, maize, rye, oats and millet in the cereal food that you buy, as well as other grains such as buckwheat and quinoa, too.

You’ll instantly know when a product uses whole grains, as it will be described using the word ‘whole’, such as wholemeal bread and wholewheat pasta, for example. Use this information to swap the refined grains and foods out of your diet for these healthier alternatives.

Top Tip: Multigrain is commonly mistaken for being the same as whole grain; however, this term simply describes the variety of grains used within a particular product. These grains could still be refined rather than whole, so opt for whole grain descriptions when you can.

How much whole grain food should you be eating?

Although there currently isn’t any research on the correct portion size or amount of whole grains that should be consumed, dietitians recommend that you aim to have three portions every day.

  • For breakfast, just one tablespoon of uncooked oats or three tablespoons of wholegrain cereal (such as Shredded Wheat, Weetabix or Bran Flakes) will provide one of your three daily whole grain portions.
  • Enjoy a couple of oatcakes or rye crispbreads for another serving, or even a slice of wholemeal bread or half a wholemeal pitta. If you’re planning on having a movie night sometime soon, two cups of popcorn will give you plenty of whole grains.
  • Brown rice, whole barley, bulgur wheat, quinoa and whole wheat pasta make healthy whole grain additions to your dinners.
  • If you’re a keen baker, make the switch from white flour to a whole grain variety, such as wholemeal, buckwheat, wheat germ or oat flour, for example.

Making sure you are getting enough whole grain foods into your daily diet can be a challenge, but doing so can help you to keep feeling well. 

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Alexandra Phillips

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