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3 Questions About Whole Grains

Whole grains have been a major source of nourishment for thousands of years. Whole grains provide many nutrients, including B vitamins and fiber.

The B vitamins found in whole grains help produce energy in your body. Fiber helps your body maintain control of blood sugar levels by slowing the digestion of carbohydrates. Fiber also helps prevent heart disease and keeps your digestive system healthy.

1. What is a whole grain?

A whole grain contains all three parts of the plant’s seed: bran, endosperm and germ. Each part of the kernel offers different nutrients. The bran is the outer layer or shell of the kernel and is rich in fiber, B vitamins, iron, zinc, copper, magnesium, antioxidants and phytochemicals. The endosperm is the largest inner part of the kernel and is rich in carbohydrates, protein, and small amounts of B vitamins and minerals. The germ is the core of the kernel and is made of healthful fats, B vitamins, vitamin E, phytochemicals and antioxidants.

2. What is the difference between a whole grain and a refined grain?

Refined grains are made by removing the bran and germ from the kernel of the whole grain so only the endosperm is left. This processing creates a very fine flour that is soft and good for baking, but it also removes most of the nutrients in the grain. Some grain products are enriched, meaning that some of the vitamins and minerals taken out during processing are added back into the grain.

3. What is the recommended amount of whole grains to eat per day?

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the amount of whole grains you should consume per day depends on your age and gender. On average, most people should eat about three servings of whole grains per day, and half of the grains eaten each day should come from whole grains.

Common sources of whole grains include 100 percent whole-wheat bread or other baked goods, oatmeal, brown rice, wild rice, quinoa, popcorn, barley and rye.

Sometimes, determining if a product is a whole grain is challenging. Find products that are whole grain by looking for “100 percent whole grain” or “100 percent whole wheat” on the food label. If a label says “multi-grain,” “cracked wheat,” “bran,” “made with whole grain” or “7 grain,” it may contain some whole grains but often has refined grains in it as well.

Here are a few tips and tricks to increase the amount of whole grains in your diet:

  • Use half whole-wheat and half white flour when baking.
  • Top salads with chilled quinoa.
  • Substitute brown rice for white rice in recipes.
  • Purchase 100 percent whole-wheat bread and cereal products.
  • Make popcorn for snacks.


Harvard Public Health,

U.S. Department of Agriculture,

Today’s Dietitian,


By: Clare Reinhardt, Dietetic Intern, NDSU Extension

Filed under: fca newsletter

Sponsored in part by the Sanford Health Foundation.

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