Complete Your Day With Whole Grains

— Written By Sydney Johnson and last updated by Cindy Nance

Getting enough fiber into the diet has proven to be a struggle for the average American. Fiber is an important part of a healthy diet and helps reduce constipation, may help reduce blood cholesterol levels, may lower risk of heart disease, obesity, and type 2 diabetes, and can help to provide a feeling of fullness with fewer calories. Think of fiber as a broom that helps to sweep away all the “dirt” in the body. Without enough fiber it is difficult to fully cleanse the body so that it functions to its full potential.

One of the best ways to consume enough fiber is through whole grains. Today our diet consists of refined grains and other refined foods that decrease our daily fiber intake. Many of these foods are processed like potato chips or cereal bars with added fiber. Processed foods with added fiber typically contain high amounts of sugar and do not have as many nutrients as if consuming whole grains or fruits and vegetables. We have replaced whole grains with white flour, white pasta, and white rice which takes away the bran and the germ of the grain and leaves the starchy endosperm. Here is a breakdown of the grain kernel:

  • The outside layer is called the Bran. The bran contains fiber, B vitamins, and minerals.
  • The middle layer is called the Endosperm. The endosperm contains carbohydrates and protein, but no vitamins or minerals.
  • The inside layer is called the Germ. The germ contains antioxidants, vitamin E, and B vitamins.

As you can see, if you take away all but the middle layer, you have stripped the grain of all the healthful vitamins and minerals that made the grain so healthy in the first place. Think of it as picking a flower and ripping off all the petals and the inside so you are left with nothing but the stem. The flower can no longer reproduce, the bees have no use for it, and it’s not even visually appealing. You are essentially left with a blade of grass. Just like the flower’s lonely stem, refined grains leave us with nothing but some carbohydrates and protein which we get plenty of in our diet versus the healthful nutrients in the bran and germ.

I want to challenge you to make at least half of your grains whole. This would be about a minimum of three ounces of whole grains a day. If you’re not a fan of wheat bread or whole grain pastas, try some grains you may have not had before. These are things like quinoa, barley, bulgur, oatmeal, and even popcorn. Here is one of my favorite breakfast recipes that is quick, easy, and oh so delicious:

  • Heat 1 cup of quinoa as directed on package. Make sure all liquid is absorbed.
  • Once cooked, remove from heat, fluff with a fork and allow to sit for five minutes.
  • Stir in 1 teaspoon of butter or margarine and 2/3 cup of soy milk. Mix well. (Soy or almond milk helps give this dish the sweeter flavor that makes it so good. Opt for original or unsweetened to save calories and lower your sugar intake!)
  • Add in half a teaspoon of cinnamon and 2 tablespoons of maple syrup. Stir it up and enjoy! (Serves two. Source unknown, please claim if it’s yours!)

It may sound strange, but if you (or a family member) is a fan of sweeter breakfast options like sugary cereals, pancakes, or sweet oatmeal, then you will love this dish!

For more information or if you need help incorporating whole grains into other meals, give me a call, Sydney Johnson, Family & Consumer Sciences Agent, North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service at 910-592-7161.