WHOLE GRAIN PRODUCT
All grains start life as whole grains. In their natural state growing in the fields, whole grains are the entire seed of a plant. This seed (which industry calls a “kernel”) is made up of three key edible parts – the bran, the germ, and the endosperm – protected by an inedible husk that protects the kernel from assaults by sunlight, pests, water, and disease.
The bran is the multi-layered outer skin of the edible kernel. It contains important antioxidants, B vitamins and fiber.
The germ is the embryo which has the potential to sprout into a new plant. It contains many B vitamins, some protein, minerals, and healthy fats.
The endosperm is the germ’s food supply, which provides essential energy to the young plant so it can send roots down for water and nutrients, and send sprouts up for sunlight’s photosynthesizing power. The endosperm is by far the largest portion of the kernel. It contains starchy carbohydrates, proteins and small amounts of vitamins and minerals.
Whole grains contain all three parts of the kernel. Refining normally removes the bran and the germ, leaving only the endosperm.
Without the bran and germ, about 25% of a grain’s protein is lost, along with at least seventeen key nutrients. Processors add back some vitamins and minerals to enrich refined grains, so refined products still contribute valuable nutrients. But whole grains are healthier, providing more protein, more fiber and many important vitamins and minerals.
Multigrain means that a food contains more than one type of grain, although none of them may necessarily be whole grains. The same goes for other variations, such as the term “seven grain.”
Whole-grain foods are a healthy choice because they contain nutrients, fiber and other healthy plant compounds found naturally in the grain.
Look for products that list the first ingredient as “whole wheat,” “whole oats” or a similar whole grain. While “whole grains” may signify one of many types of healthy grains, “whole wheat” labels the specific grain used. Either term may identify a food that’s a good source of fiber, several B vitamins and minerals.