Are all your grains whole grains? According to a 2005 estimate, most Americans consumed their grains as refined. In fact, only 11% of their total grain intake came from whole grains. 1
Recently, however, refined grain intake has dramatically decreased. US National Survey Data (NHANES) shows whole grain intake has increased across all age groups from 2003/2004 to 2013/2014.2
Have you made the switch to whole grains? If you haven't done so already, findings from a 2017 study may be compelling enough. Researchers found that those who included whole grains in their diet absorbed less energy from food than people who ate a similar diet with refined grains. 3
The study put 81 men and women on either a whole grain or refined grain diet for six weeks and examined stool samples, blood samples, and their metabolic rate (a useful tool to get an idea of how well their metabolism works).
The whole grain eaters passed more stools and had a higher metabolic rate. Study authors estimate that the increased metabolic rate could translate to a modest 2.5 kg (5.5 lb) weight loss over a year if a person would not eat more to make up the difference in calories.
While whole grains may not actually melt away extra weight, they are still a richer source of micronutrients than refined grains, they help maintain digestive health, and, thus, reduce risk of GI cancers. Refined grains are stripped of up to 80% of the nutrients found in the whole grain since two important parts of the grain (the bran and germ) are removed.
How To Find Whole Grains
As mentioned in the EnergyFirst Healthy Living Program, the best source of carbohydrates are unprocessed, fiber-rich, low-glycemic carbohydrates. Whole grains fall under this category.
Many associate dark or brown colored products with whole grains. This isn't an accurate way to find whole grains. Whole grain oat-based products may be lighter in color. On the flipside, many companies may simply add molasses or caramel food coloring to refined grains. 4
Look for reliable indicators on the food label, such as "100% whole grain" or the word "whole" before the grain (such as "whole wheat, whole bran). In other words, "100% wheat" is most likely not whole. "100% multigrain"? That just tells us there are several types of grains but we aren't guaranteed they are whole. "100% stone ground"? Again, we need the word "whole" to indicate this product isn't refined.
Whole grains include amaranth, barley, buckwheat, bulgur, whole grain corn, farro, freekeh, millet, rice, wild rice, whole rye, whole wheat, teff, oats, or quinoa. 5
Remember, portion control is essential. A good rule of thumb is that if you are using whole grains for your unprocessed carbohydrate, include about 1 serving per meal or snack. This is equivalent to about 1 cup of cooked whole grain (such as brown rice, wild rice, barley, or quinoa).