Whole Grain Bread…The Basics

Half the grain products we eat are supposed to be whole grain. We aren’t there yet, but according to a July study about 55% of us have switched from white bread to whole grain bread.

Whole grains aren’t limited to bread. There are whole grain pastas and brown rice on grocery shelves too. And products made with whole grains such as oats, popcorn, brown and wild rice, buckwheat (or kasha) and cracked wheat (also called bulgur) as the first ingredient carry the “whole-grain” label.

Grains such as quinoa, whole cornmeal (yellow or white), whole barley, whole rye, amaranth, millet, spelt and triticale are less common, but are also whole grains.

breadWhy are we eating more whole grains? Maybe consumers are becoming more aware that whole grains help reduce the risk of bowel disorders, some cancers, heart disease (by lowering blood pressure and cholesterol), stroke and type 2 diabetes. Maybe it is because we like the taste and texture.

Bread is still a staple in our diets. Whole grain bread can cost $3.50 to $4.00 a loaf at the supermarket.  At the day old store I found whole grain bread for $1.00 to $2.00 a loaf. If you have a day-old bread store nearby and have a freezer, it’s worth a trip to stock up.

Check for clues on the label!

Be sure the bread you buy is whole grain and not just brown. Look for the “Whole Grain” stamp or choose foods that name one of the following whole-grain ingredients FIRST on the label’s ingredient list: whole grain stamp

  • brown rice
  • bulgur
  • graham flour
  • oatmeal
  • whole-grain corn
  • whole oats
  • whole rye
  • whole wheat
  • wild rice.

If you see these words listed as the first ingredient, that’s your tip that it is NOT a whole grain product: wheat flour; enriched; multigrain; 100% wheat; stone ground; cracked wheat; seven-grain; bran.

The Whole Grain Maze

Bread used to be made from either whole wheat or white flour; although, many times coloring was added to white flour to make it look darker (healthier) .  Now we have “whole white bread” and many claims on the label to wade through such as 5 grams fiber, 20 grams of whole grain and 40% fiber.  How do you know which is the best?  What’s a person to do if we want to make half of your grains whole as recommended?

Bread is made from flour that comes from grain kernels — usually wheat. A grain kernel has three parts: the bran, the endosperm, and the germ.

Whole grains contain all parts of the grain kernel. Refined grains, like the flour used to make white bread, have had the  bran (where most of the fiber is) and the germ (where most of the nutrients are) processed out.  This leaves only the starchy endosperm, which means you miss out on essential fatty acids, vitamin E, magnesium, and zinc.

Many flour and bread manufacturers enrich their bread by adding vitamins back in. But it’s still better to eat whole grains.

The bottom line……..Check the list of ingredients
If the first ingredient listed contains the word “whole” (such as “whole wheat flour” or “whole oats”), it is likely that the product is predominantly whole grain. If there are two grain ingredients and only the second ingredient listed is a whole grain, the product may contain as little as 1% or as much as 49% whole grain (in other words, it could contain a little bit of whole grain, or nearly half).

Whole grain and fiber are not the same
Fiber varies from grain to grain, ranging from 3.5% in rice to over 15% in barley and bulgur. What’s more, high-fiber products sometimes contain bran or other added fiber without actually having much, if any, whole grain. Both fiber and whole grains have been shown to have health benefits. But they are not interchangeable. So checking the fiber on a label is not a very reliable way to guess whether a product is truly whole grain.

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