Nutrition Tips

Whole Grains

What is a Whole Grain?

Whole grains and whole grain products are exactly what they sound like –whole. This means the entire grain (germ, bran and endosperm) is included in the product, giving you an array of health benefits that refined grains (white flour) are lacking. Refined, highly processed grains remove the nutrient packed germ and bran of the grain to make the product easier to bake and cook with; although this allows people to make fluffy appetizing baked goods, it leaves the grains without their beneficial fiber, vitamins and minerals.

Health Benefits of Whole Grains

By keeping all the components of the grain, whole grain products come naturally supplied with B-vitamins, a variety of minerals and nutrients, and possibly most important- fiber. This means by adding whole grains to your diet (at least 3 servings or 48g/ day) you can lower your risk for heart disease, certain types of cancer and diabetes. You will notice in refined wheat products like regular all-purpose flour, that B-vitamins such as Niacin and Riboflavin have been added back into the wheat. Although this is a step toward getting adequate amounts of these necessary B-vitamins, nothing can replace the natural array of these nutrients found in 100% whole grains.

Types of Whole Grains

There are many types of whole grains out there, and many are staples in nearly every culture around the world. You can find whole grains like quinoa, barley, millet, teff, and whole grain rice in bags and bulk sections of most grocery stores. Also, many companies are beginning to make different breads, pastas and wraps made from these whole grains that are incredibly healthy options.
Whole grains can be enjoyed at every meal and in many forms. When searching for products in the store, don’t be fooled by “whole wheat”, “multi-“ or “seven-grain” products, as they may not be made with the entire grain. Read the label and make sure the ingredients state “100% whole wheat flour” or another “100% whole-grain flour”.

Breakfast: Whole grain breakfast cereals, oatmeal and toast are easy options to start your day with healthy whole grains. Pair with fresh fruit, peanut butter or your favorite yogurt for a strong, well-rounded breakfast.

Lunch: Enjoy classic sandwiches, wraps or light pasta dishes by selecting a 100% whole wheat bread, tortilla or pasta when creating your favorite lunch-time foods.

Dinner: Try a variety of whole grains and whole grain products like quinoa, barley, millet or bulgur. Not only can you try new exciting meals featuring these grains, but there are many brands making breads and hamburger buns featuring these wonderful whole grains, so the options are endless.

Snacks: Whole grain popcorn, 100% whole wheat pitas with hummus, or simple rye crackers with cheese are easy, healthy ways to incorporate whole grains throughout the day.

Healthy Fats

Fat usually gets a bad rap; many trendy or “fad” diets out there suggest cutting back extremely on dietary fat, and some- eliminate it altogether. This may sound appealing and make sense at first: “If I don’t eat fat, I won’t get fat.”; however, this is a misconception that leaves those who try to eliminate fat from their diet deficient in certain vitamins, nutrients, and some wonderful, filling foods.

Importance of Dietary Fat

Fat plays an extremely vital role in your health, on top of helping you feel full. Dietary fat is needed for your body to absorb and use vitamin A (needed for eye health), vitamin K (important for healthy blood and reducing risk for heart disease), vitamin E (an extremely important antioxidant that helps the body fight against cancer) and vitamin D (helps you grow and maintain strong bones, and fight symptoms of depression). These fat-soluble vitamins require dietary fat to function in your body and provide you with all of the benefits they have to offer. Dietary fat also makes you feel full and can prevent frequent snacking of unhealthy treats; the trick is choosing the healthiest forms of fat.

Healthiest Fats

The most ideal way to incorporate fat into your diet is through natural, unprocessed sources like nuts, seeds, avocados and olives. By eating these nutrient rich foods in their whole, natural form you will be getting the heath benefits mentioned earlier in regards to fat soluble vitamins, along with fiber, phytonutrients, antioxidants and a multitude of much needed minerals. Fish such as wild caught salmon, tuna, anchovies and sardines are also great sources of Omega 3 fats which are beneficial in reducing inflammation and your risk for heart disease.
Minimally refined and process cooking oils like extra virgin olive oil, walnut oil, and even coconut oil have health benefits as well, but are stripped of their natural fiber and many nutrients, while keeping the high number of calories. These oils can easily be a part of a well balanced healthy diet, but should be consumed in moderation (2 tablespoons/day)