Choosing whole grains
Make at least half the grains in your diet whole grains. You can find whole-grain versions of rice, bread, cereal, flour and pasta at most grocery stores. Many whole-grain foods, including a variety of breads, pastas and cereals, are ready to eat.
Examples of whole grains include:
- Brown rice
- Bulgur (cracked wheat)
- Whole-wheat bread, pasta or crackers
It's not always easy to tell what kind of grains a product has, especially bread. For instance, a brown bread isn't necessarily whole wheat — the brown hue may come from added coloring.
If you're not sure something has whole grains, check the product label or the Nutrition Facts panel. Look for the word "whole" on the package, and make sure whole grains appear among the first items in the ingredient list.
What about white whole-wheat bread?
It may seem like it doesn't add up, but actually white whole-wheat bread is made with whole grains, just as is regular whole-wheat bread.
White whole-wheat bread also is nutritionally similar to regular whole-wheat bread. So if you prefer the taste and texture of white bread, but want the nutritional benefits of whole wheat, choose white whole-wheat bread over refined white bread.
A word of caution
If all of the grains you eat are whole grains, you may need to take extra care to get sufficient folic acid, a B vitamin. While most refined-grain products are fortified, whole grains are not typically fortified with folic acid.
Look for whole grains that have been fortified with folic acid, such as some ready-to-eat cereals. Eat plenty of other folate-rich foods, including fruits, vegetables and legumes. Folic acid is especially important for women who could become pregnant or are pregnant.
How to enjoy more whole grains in your diet
Try these tips to add more whole grains to your meals and snacks:
- Enjoy breakfasts that include whole-grain cereals, such as whole-wheat bran flakes (some bran flakes may just have the bran, not the whole grain), shredded wheat or oatmeal.
- Substitute whole-wheat toast or whole-grain bagels for plain bagels. Substitute low-fat muffins made with whole-grain cereals, such as oatmeal or others, for pastries.
- Make sandwiches using whole-grain breads or rolls. Swap out white-flour tortillas with whole-wheat versions.
- Replace white rice with quinoa, brown rice, wild rice, barley or bulgur.
- Feature wild rice or barley in soups, stews, casseroles and salads.
- Add whole grains, such as cooked brown rice or whole-grain bread crumbs, to ground meat or poultry for extra bulk.
- Use rolled oats or crushed whole-wheat bran cereal in recipes instead of dry bread crumbs.
Eating a variety of whole grains not only ensures that you get more health-promoting nutrients but also helps make your meals and snacks more interesting.
July 18, 2017
See more In-depth
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- Whole grains and fiber. American Heart Association. http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/HealthyLiving/HealthyEating/HealthyDietGoals/Whole-Grains-and-Fiber_UCM_303249_Article.jsp#.WQfqs2d1rIU. Accessed April 27, 2017.
- Carbohydrates. American Heart Association. http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/HealthyLiving/HealthyEating/Nutrition/Carbohydrates_UCM_461832_Article.jsp#.WQdPSGd1rIU. Accessed May 1, 2017.
- Tips to help you eat whole grains. U.S. Department of Agriculture. https://www.choosemyplate.gov/grains-tips. Accessed May 1, 2017.
- What is a whole grain? Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. http://www.eatright.org/resource/food/nutrition/dietary-guidelines-and-myplate/what-is-a-whole-grain. Accessed April 27, 2017.
- Whitney E, et al. Planning a healthy diet. In: Understanding Nutrition. 14th ed. Belmont, Calif.: Cengage Learning; 2016.
- Aune D, et al. Whole grain consumption and risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer, and all cause and cause specific mortality: Systematic review and dose-response meta-analysis of prospective studies. BMJ. 2016;353:i2716.
- How to add whole grains to your diet. Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. http://www.eatright.org/resource/food/nutrition/dietary-guidelines-and-myplate/choose-whole-grains. Accessed April 27, 2017.
- Zeratsky KA (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. May 4, 2017.