The Whole Truth

A whole grain can be a complete food, such as oatmeal, brown rice, barley or popcorn, or used as an ingredient in food, such as whole wheat flour in bread or cereal. To verify that a product is whole grain, consumers should look beyond a product’s name. Descriptive words in the product’s name, such as stone-ground, multi-grain, 100 percent wheat or bran, do not necessarily indicate that a product is whole grain. Words to look for include “whole grain” or “100 percent whole wheat.”

The ingredient statement will list whole grains by the specific grain, such as whole wheat flour, whole oats or whole grain corn. The phrase “whole grain” or “whole” will appear before the grain’s name. To help consumers, the Whole Grains Council has developed an easy to identify stamp indicating which products are made with whole grains:

If a product bears the 100 percent stamp, then all its grain ingredients are whole grains. There is a minimum requirement of 16 grams – a full serving – of whole grain per labeled serving, for products using the 100 percent stamp.

If a product bears the Basic Stamp, it contains at least 8 grams – a half serving – of whole grain but may also contain some refined grain. Even if a product contains large amounts of whole grain, it will use the Basic Stamp if it also contains extra bran, germ or refined flour.

Source: International Food Information Council

Incorporating whole grains into your diet
With the growing popularity of whole grain foods, the grocery store is full of new whole grain products, many of which are similar in flavor and texture to their white flour counterparts. Here are some easy tips to integrate whole grains into mealtimes:

  • For a heartier meal that keeps you full longer, choose whole grain rice, pasta and cereal.
  • Looking for a whole grain snack in addition to popcorn? Try the new varieties of corn chips, cheese puffs and crackers.Use whole grain flour and corn meal when baking.
  • Start by replacing one-third to one-half of the total flour with a whole grain flour. Recipes that are easy to convert include yeast breads, cobblers, drop cookies and brownies.

Keeping whole grains fresh
Because the oil-rich germ is intact, whole grains must be treated with special care. Unlike white rice or pasta made with refined flour, most whole grains cannot be stored indefinitely on a pantry shelf without becoming rancid. Instead, place the product such as pasta, cereal or flour in a well-sealed container and mark the date. Store them in the refrigerator or freezer and aim to use them within six months.

Food Tips are compiled by Janet Cassidy.