Appropriately, September — the northern hemisphere’s traditional harvest time — is designated National Whole Grains Month.
“A whole grain has the perfect combination of nutrients to allow for easy digestion and assimilation by the body,” says CraveHealth.com nutritionist Kendra Strasburg, CHHC, AADP. “Whole grains are an excellent source of essential enzymes, iron, dietary fiber, vitamin E and the B-complex vitamins. The majority of a grain’s nutrients are found in the germ and bran, and without these in the grain, it becomes more difficult to digest.”
It’s the bran and germ that are missing in refined grains.
“Whole grains contain three main components — the germ, endosperm and bran,” says Strasburg.
“Combined, they contain a nice balance of fats, proteins and carbohydrates to allow for stable blood sugar levels and slow, easy digestion, sustaining energy levels for a long period of time.”
Still, whole grains contain carbohydrates and calories, and a healthier diet isn’t about adding more — it’s about taking the refined grains away.
“Just because you’re having brown rice or whole-wheat pasta, that doesn't mean you get to eat twice as much,” warns Nutrition Diva podcaster Monica Reinagel, MS, LN. “Even if you’re choosing whole grains, you still need to watch portion sizes and number of servings.”
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How much should you eat?
FDA guidelines recommend six to 11 servings of grains per day, at least half of them whole grains. Just how much is one serving?
½ cup of cooked oatmeal
½ cup cooked 100 percent whole-grain pasta
½ cup cooked brown rice, quinoa or whole-grain barley
1 regular slice of 100 percent whole-grain bread
1 cup of whole-grain, ready-to-eat cereal