The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend adults eat at least half their grains as whole grains which equates to 3 to 5 servings of whole grains a day. 

Carbs generally get a bad rap, especially when it comes to eating “healthy.” This isn’t the whole truth, however. Did you know it is recommended that 45 to 65 percent of the calories we eat each day should come from carbohydrate sources? That’s over half our calories from “bad” food? Does that make sense? Of course not, that’s because not all carbs are bad. To understand this, we’ll need to look at the difference between refined and whole grains. 

If you’ve been to the grocery store or watched many cereal commercials over the past few years you have most likely noticed the term “whole grain” being frequently used. Being inundated with this term can be overwhelming. But, it doesn’t have to be this way. So, what are whole grains? 

A whole grain consists of three parts: the bran, the endosperm, and the germ
The bran is the outer shell and contains fiber, B vitamins, and trace minerals. 
The germ is the small part of the grain that sprouts and grows into the plant. It is packed with antioxidants, vitamin E, B vitamins, minerals, healthy fats, and protein. 
The endosperm is the largest portion of the grain and contains the energy for the seed which is primarily carbohydrate. 

Whole grains contain all parts of the grain, while refined grains and flours generally consist of only the endosperm. In the refining process the bran and the germ have been removed. As you can imagine this leaves only the carbohydrate rich portion. This process takes place to increase the shelf life and stability of the product. Refining removes about a quarter of the protein and two thirds or greater of the nutrients. Enrichment is when the three of the major B vitamins that were removed during refining are added back in to the refined product; thiamin, niacin, riboflavin. 

The Whole Grains
To list all the whole grains would take up much of this blog. You’ll recognize some of the most well-known and popular whole grains: Amaranth, Barley, Brown Rice, Buckwheat, Bulgur (Cracked Wheat), Flaxseed, Kamut® Grain, Millet, Oats, Oatmeal, Popcorn, Rolled Oats, Quinoa, Rye, Sorghum, Spelt, Whole Wheat. 

The Refined Grains 
An exhaustive list of all the available refined grains would be even harder to list than the whole grains. About 95 percent of the grains we eat come from refined sources. 

Multi-Grain Versus Whole Grain
These two terms can be confusing. Multi-grain does not always mean whole grain. Multi-grain simply means that multiple types of grains were used in the making of the product. They may or may not be from whole grain sources. You’ll still want to check your nutrition label to ensure they are not enriched or refined. 

Why It Matters? 
At this point you’re probably asking why it matters whether or not we consume whole or refined grains. First, you remember that the two main sources of nutrients f a grain are removed when they are refined, and we’re left with a carbohydrate dense food item. Refined grains are known to increase risk for many illnesses like heart disease, diabetes, and obesity. These foods digest quickly leading to spikes in blood sugar. Removing their fiber, health fats, and many vitamins creates a food item that is largely full of empty calories. Refining carbohydrates can lead to over eating due to their decrease in fiber and quick digestibility. Fullness does not last long from these foods, even though they are full of calories. Refined carbohydrates have also been linked to inflammation in the body. Chronic inflammation can cause many health issues.  


*This blog provides general information and discussion about supplements, health and related subjects.  The words and other content provided in this blog, and in any linked materials, are not intended and should not be construed as medical advice. If the reader or any other person has a medical concern, he or she should consult with an appropriately-licensed physician or other health care worker.
*Many areas of nutrition tend to elicit controversy. As with most health topics there are varying opinions and research.