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Go with Whole Grains

May 5, 2015 by Adrienne Ngai, Registered Dietitian

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Whole grains are back on the menu! They add a nutty flavour and chewy texture to dishes. Eating three or more servings of whole grain foods per day can reduce your risk of developing heart disease by up to 30 per cent. Whole grains may also help lower cholesterol levels and your risk of having a stroke.

It can sometimes feel like you need to be a nutrition expert to decode food labels and health food claims. Here’s what you need to know to when choosing whole grain foods at your next shopping trip…

What are Whole Grains?

Whole grains have all three parts of a grain: bran, endosperm, and germ. Barley, brown rice, oats, quinoa, wild rice, whole grain breads, and whole grain pasta are all examples of whole grains. Whole grain foods offer fibre and are packed with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.

What Does “100%” or “60% Whole Wheat” Mean and Which is Healthier?

  • “100% whole wheat” means that 100 per cent of the flour is whole wheat flour. However, whole wheat is not the same as whole grain. Most of the germ and some of the bran from the wheat may have been removed to give the flour a longer shelf life. Look for breads that are “100% whole wheat” and lists “whole grain whole wheat” as the first ingredient in the ingredient list for a healthier choice.
  • “60% whole wheat” means that at least 60 per cent of the flour is whole wheat and the remaining 40 per cent is likely white flour.

How to Select Whole Grain Foods:

  • Look for these words in the ingredients list:
    • whole grain (type of flour)
    • whole (name of grain)
    • stone ground whole (name of grain)
    • brown rice
    • oats
    • oatmeal
  • Products that say multigrain, stone-ground, or seven grain may not actually be whole grain. Look at the ingredients list and select products with whole grains listed at the beginning of the ingredient list.
  • Look for the whole grain stamp on products to help you identify whole grain foods.
  • Just because bread is brown in colour doesn’t make it a healthy choice. These breads may get their colour from brown colouring, molasses, or caramel. Read the labels and ingredients list to be sure your product is whole grain.
  • Take a look at this article to learn more about serving sizes and ways to include more whole grain foods in your diet.
  • If the rest of your family isn’t wild about whole grains, start by substituting half of your grains with whole grains.

What About Gluten-Free Whole Grains?

Going gluten-free doesn’t mean you have to give up whole grains. Learn about gluten-free whole grains here. If you’re thinking of starting a gluten-free diet, read this. Gluten-free whole grains include amaranth, buckwheat, corn, millet, uncontaminated oats, quinoa, rice, sorghum, teff, and wild rice. Check out the Whole Grain Council to get more information on gluten-free whole grains. Visit the Canadian Celiac Association for recipes and learn how to substitute wheat flour with gluten-free flours.

What whole grain foods will you add to your diet?


Related blogs:

From the Bakery- Mmmm Smell that Aroma
Food Labels: Nutrition Information and Ingredients
Gluten-Free Whole Grains
Read this Before Starting a Gluten-Free Diet

Recommended resources:

Heart and Stroke Foundation: 10 Whole Grain Secrets
Whole Grains Council: Grains 101

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