What Is “Whole Grain”?

What are the health benefits of whole grain?

Health experts advise everyone – men and women, young and old – that grains are a healthy necessity in every diet, and that it’s important to eat at least half our grains as “whole grains.”  Whole grains include grains like wheat, corn, rice, oats, barley, quinoa, sorghum, spelt, rye – when these foods are eaten in their “whole” form.  Whole grains even include popcorn!

We are all increasingly aware that fruits and vegetables contain disease-fighting antioxidants, but we do not always realize that whole grains are often an even better source of these key nutrients.  In addition, whole grains have some valuable antioxidants not found in fruits and vegetables, as well as B vitamins, vitamin E, magnesium, iron and fiber. The medical evidence is clear that whole grains reduce risks of heart disease, stroke, cancer, diabetes and obesity. Few foods can offer such diverse benefits.

Did you know?  People who eat whole grains regularly have a lower risk of obesity, as measured by their body mass index and waist-to-hip ratios. They also have lower cholesterol levels.  Because of the phytochemicals and antioxidants, people who eat three daily servings of whole grains have been shown to reduce their risk of heart disease by 25-36%, stroke by 37%, Type II diabetes by 21-27%, digestive system cancers by 21-43%, and hormone-related cancers by 10-40%.

How do I make sure I am eating whole grain?

Identifying whether or not  a food is whole grain can be confusing.  According to ChooseMyPlate.gov, foods labeled with the words “multi-grain,” “stone-ground,” “wheat,” “cracked wheat,” “seven-grain,” and “bran” are usually not whole-grain products.

First, check the package label.  Many whole grain products will list the grams of whole grain somewhere on the package, or say something like “100% whole wheat.”  You can trust these statements.  But be skeptical if you see the words “whole grain” without more details, such as “crackers made with whole grain.”  The product may contain only minuscule amounts of whole grains.  And “whole” should appear near the top of the list and “enriched” should not be present.

Pay attention to other ingredients too:

√ Check the fiber – the fiber content should be greater than 3 grams per serving.

√ Check the sugar – the amount of sugar should be no more than double the fiber content.

Look for this label…


The Whole Grain Council has developed this stamp to help identify products that are truly whole grain. This special packaging symbol is now on hundreds and hundreds of popular products. Check out the list of “Stamped Products” here on their website.

If you’d like to know more about whole grains:

Resources: For this and more information regarding whole grains, visit wholegrainscouncil.org.

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