People who strive to eat a healthy diet frequently turn to whole grain breads and other foods to boost their wellness. It’s easy to do, too, as whole grain foods are now widely available in every grocery store and even most fast-food restaurants. But are whole grain foods really as healthy for us as we think they are?

Marketing suggests that putting the words “whole grain” on a box of food makes it healthy, but science might very well say otherwise. Let’s take a closer look at the whole grain craze and see if it’s really worth your time. Do whole grains improve your health or are you just paying for a label?


What Does “Whole Grain” Mean, Anyway?

It’s important to understand the difference between whole grain and what’s called “refined grain.” When we think of something as being “whole grain,” we imagine that it’s stuffed choc full of delicious, nutritious intact grains — as opposed to refined grains that have been treated and stripped of many of their nutrients.

But this isn’t usually the case. In fact, whole grains can sometimes be downright unhealthy.

A whole grain is made up of three basic parts. There’s a coating of bran that surrounds the starchy insides called the endosperm. Nestled in the middle is the little kernel called the germ.

The commonly-accepted definition of whole grain (agreed upon by both the American Association of Cereal Chemists and the FDA) basically says that something qualifies as “whole grain” as long as it’s got a combination of bran, endosperm, and germ in the same proportions that you’d have with an intact whole grain.

In many processed “whole grain” foods, the three components are separated, ground up, and then mixed together. The product therefore still meets the FDA requirements to be labelled whole grain, but it’s been robbed of much of its beneficial fiber and nutrients.



Real, Intact Whole Grains vs. Processed Whole Grains

Additionally, foods that qualify for the whole grain label according to the definition put forth by the AACC and the FDA are still loaded with things like additives and preservatives.

Not to mention the fact that they don’t contain nearly as much fiber or nutrients as whole grain foods would if they actually used whole grains that were intact and hadn’t been processed first.

So how do we navigate the whole grain labyrinth? Look for whole grain foods that are high in fiber, for one thing. This is usually a pretty good indication that you will be able to get a lot of the nutrients and fiber that come from an unprocessed whole grain. You can also buy your own intact whole grains and use them in your own recipes.

Another great tip? Don’t buy foods that simply don’t need to be whole grain. It’s one thing to get whole grain breads and other simple foods that can easily be made with intact, whole grains. But whole grain snack cookies, chips or sugary cereal? With foods that aren’t very healthy to begin with, you might as well just go for the real thing.

Do You Eat Whole Grains?

What do you think? Do you eat whole grains to be healthier? Share your thoughts with us in the comments.


See Also

Top 4 Foods For a Healthy Brain and Body
15 Shocking Facts About Sugar
7 So-Called Health Foods to Avoid at All Costs

About The Author

Sean Boulger is a freelance writer and storytelling enthusiast living in LA. He loves television, pop culture, minimalism, and two cats.

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4 Responses

  1. Ellen

    This article totally left out the real dangers about grains:’
    1) GMO-derived grains are deadly (seriously)
    2) Unsprouted grains CANNOT be digested and create havoc in the gut, breaking down the immune system over time (85% of immune system is in gut)
    3) Many processed products use a derivative of grains as fillers, preservatives, etc. that are not labelled so you can be ingesting grains (breaking down your immune system) and not even know it.
    4) Grains are big CORP business and pushed like a drug in our society; in reality, using a 1200 calorie diet as an example, the human body only needs 1/4-1/2 cup of ‘sprouted’ grains a day to function optimally.

  2. Colin Greenlaw

    The use of whole grains most of my life has paid off as I continue to rely on them exclusively, tho not all sprouted. I do agree that sprouted is best, and that GMO is a real problem for our society.

    At age 79, at the last routine physical exam (June, 2012), the doc said, “You’re disgustingly healthy!” I take no drugs at any time, not even aspirin (except for dental pain).

    My mother died early a diabetic, so I stay off the refined foods. With fresh fruits, veggies, seeds, nuts & whole grains, I deprive the medical industry of some of their income (by the way, my dad was a practicing medical doctor).

  3. Dr. Joe Vanore

    Best choice: Einkorm Whole Wheat – the original 28 gene wheat with no hybridization problem. Most whole wheat in the world has an extra 0 or so genes that are of unknown quality, causing obeseity, diabetes, alkaline deficiencies – thus bone deteriorization. 100’s other symtoms. Get book “Wheat Belly”.
    Organic might mean – no GMO, but it doesn’t mean – no Hybridization. Careful with FDA, it’s just another Gov’t agency …
    Also, find out what “corn protien” is …

  4. George McClellnd

    Most people need to be careful about any grain, whole or otherwise. According to my information, many people are gluten intollerant although do not necessarily suffer from it. As a result most gluten containing foods have been eliminaged from my diet although I do eat breads on occassion – no one is perfect.


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