Like most of us, you’ve probably heard a lot about how healthy whole grain and whole wheat products are. But, also like many of us, you might still be confused when it comes to how each of them is different from the other and you might wonder which is a better option, or does it even matter. You will soon learn the difference between whole grain and whole wheat as well as the benefits each one offers and be able to start including them in your diet and your family’s diet as well.
Shana Hussin, a registered dietitian and creator of Go Meals Go!, tells us that there really is no difference between a whole wheat and a whole grain.
“Whole grain can be made from any number of grains, such as corn, oats, brown rice, quinoa, millet, wheat, barley, buckwheat, spelt and others,” Hussin said.
So in other words, whole wheat is a type of whole grain product and no grain other than wheat is used in whole wheat products. When it comes to the difference between white or enriched products and whole wheat products, white or enriched products do not contain the whole grain which means they lack the parts of the seed that contain all of the nutrients.
“A whole grain consists of the entire seed of the plant and has three components – the endosperm, bran and germ,” explained Jennifer Neily (www.jenniferneily.com), a registered dietitian. A refined wheat only includes the endosperm. “It’s the bran and germ that carry the nutrient powerhouses and all the benefits we hear about,” Neily added.
When shopping for whole grain products, it is important to keep in mind that those products that are labeled as containing whole grain ingredients must include the whole part of the seed. You’ll also want to choose products that list whole wheat or whole grain as the first ingredient.
“I always specify to my patients to look and make sure they see 100% WHOLE wheat somewhere on the label or whole grain,” Neily said. “The first ingredient should ALWAYS include the word ‘whole’.”
Nutritionists agree that any whole grain products, including whole wheat, are nutritious options, as long as the whole seed of the grain is used and nothing is enriched. All whole grains are a good source of fiber, B vitamins and often times, iron.
Hussin warns, however, that when shopping for healthy whole grain food products, the term “multigrain” can be deceiving. “This does not always mean the whole part of the grain seed is used, this simply means more than one grain is used in the product…such as wheat, corn and rice,” she explained.
In these products, some or all of the grains may not contain the endosperm and all of its nutrients and the product may actually be enriched. Neily points out that most all breads are made from wheat… so white bread is even 100% wheat. “Often it is just caramel coloring that makes “wheat” bread take on the brown coloring,” she warns.
Robin Plotkin, a registered dietitian and nationally acclaimed culinary and nutrition expert says it is easy to add whole grain to your diet. “Who doesn’t love popcorn? It’s a tasty and inexpensive whole grain that many people forget to add to their weekly grocery list,” she said. “Air popped is best with a sprinkle of salt.”
Plotkin added that you can’t go wrong when choosing a whole grain product because they contain more fiber, protein and other important vitamins and minerals that refined grains lose during the refining process.