What are whole grains, and why are they important?

Not only do whole grains boast tremendous flavour, they have been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease, diabetes and some cancers, while aiding in healthy digestion! So what makes a grain a whole grain?

Whole grains (like wheat, corn, barley and oats) are made up of three components: the bran, the germ and the endosperm. The bran is the outer layer of the grain, which contains fibre as well as some vitamins and minerals. The germ is the part of the grain that supports the growth of a new plant, and it is rich in healthy fats, vitamins, and minerals. Finally, the endosperm contains mainly starch (carbohydrate), as well as some protein, vitamins and minerals.

Eating whole grain means that all three parts of the grain are present, so you get all of the beneficial nutrients from all three parts of the grain, including fibre, vitamins, and minerals. Foods that have been refined (such as white pasta and white flour) have had some or all of the bran and germ portions of the kernel removed. Although some vitamins and minerals get added back through enrichment, whole grains contain more fibre and nutrients than their refined counterparts. In fact, whole grains are so important that Eating Well with Canada’s Food Guide recommends that at least half of your grain choices every day be whole grain.

How can you know that you are getting whole grains? Check the ingredient list on the food package and look for the words whole grain in front of the name of the grain. The whole grain should appear as one of the first ingredients in the list. For more information, visit: hc-sc.gc.ca/fn-an/nutrition/whole-grain-entiers-eng.php.

Enjoy whole grains every day and know that you are doing something good for your health!

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