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Bob’s Red Mill, based in Portland, Ore., is one company that seeks to help consumers eat more whole grains. The company offers a line of all-natural, organic and - in some cases - gluten-free whole grains, flours and mixes.

Chew on this: Whole grains pack a strong punch over fiber supplements

by Jane Park
Jan 29, 2009


Image courtesy of Bob’s Red Mill 

The individual parts of a whole grain seed contribute to the overall nutritional value.  The bran, or outer shell, contains fiber and B vitamins.  The endosperm, or starchy part, contains carbohydrates and protein. The germ contains antioxidants, vitamin E and B vitamins.


Jane Park/MEDILL

Based on information from the Whole Grains Council, this chart shows the fiber count in 16 grams of some common whole grains.


Image courtesy of Oldways and the Whole Grains Council 

Food manufacturers that use the Whole Grain Stamp must prove that products contain at least 8 grams of whole grains per serving.

Related Links

Whole Grains CouncilBob's Red Mill

Dietitian Karen Benzinger offers some suggestions for adding more servings of whole grains into your diet.

Whole oats or oatmeal - Easy to incorporate into recipes, oatmeal is a good way to increase fiber intake. Choose whole oats over instant, quick-cooking oatmeal, as they are less processed.

Popcorn - This is a great option for children’s lunches. Choose plain or lightly salted.

Brown rice and whole-wheat pasta
- These are easy substitutes for dinner staples. Mix in with white rice or regular pasta to ease the transition to the denser texture.

Quinoa - Higher in protein than some other whole grains, quinoa is also good for gluten-sensitive diets or for people watching their blood sugar.

Millet - This is a good grain to add to cereals.

The next time you’re feeling bloated or constipated, have a slice of 100 percent whole grain bread.

You can heat up a bowl of oatmeal instead.

Local dietitians say eating whole grain foods is a better way to meet your daily fiber needs than taking a powder or pill supplement.

“It’s important not to just isolate the fiber” by consuming it as a supplement, said Betsy Hjelmgren, a registered dietitian who provides in-home nutrition counseling to Chicago area residents.

That’s because fiber, though important for the digestive system and beneficial in lowering cholesterol, does not contain the antioxidants, vitamins and minerals that whole grain foods do.

Children don't eat enough whole grains, according to a study published in the January issue of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association.

“Lunches were low in whole grain items,” said study author Sara J. Sweitzer, registered dietitian and doctoral candidate of Nutritional Sciences at the University of Texas at Austin.

Sweitzer interviewed parents of 74 children between three and five years old and assessed children’s packed lunches over a period of three days. Eleven percent of the lunches did not contain enough whole grains.

Whole grains deliver adequate amounts of fiber and nourish the body with carbohydrates, protein and essential fatty acids among other vitamins and minerals. But not all whole grain breads and granola bars are made equal, said Sweitzer.

She added that the best way parents can ensure that their children are eating adequate amounts of whole grains is to read ingredient labels and nutrition information.

“When possible, 100 percent whole grain is the way to go,” said Karen Benzinger, a registered dietitian at Cynthia Chow & Associates in Chicago.

Check packaging for the whole grain contents of foods, she advised. Ideally, ingredients such as “whole wheat flour,” or “whole grains” should top the lists on packaging, because ingredients are listed in order of weight, with the predominant one coming first.

“Take a quick scan of the length of that list,” said Benzinger. A shorter ingredient list usually means fewer additives, she said.

Granola and cereal bars that may be high in fiber usually also contain a host of other ingredients such as sodium and added sugar.

“These are still processed foods,” Benzinger reminds consumers. “If you can’t pronounce most of the ingredients, in reality, they may be stabilizers,” she said.

Consumers can also look for the Whole Grain Stamp, a label introduced in January 2005 by the Whole Grains Council. Not all food manufactures use this stamp, but it labels a wide variety of products that contain at least 8 grams of whole grains per serving.

Nutritionists say the growing prevalence of whole grain products on store shelves is a testament to a more educated public.

“The demand for whole grains has gone up, and consumers are going to continue to demand whole grain products,” said Benzinger. “It’s something that’s not going to go away.”

And as awareness toward whole grain grows, Hjelmgren said consumers should beware of products that oversell their benefits, such as foods that don’t contain whole grains but are fortified or enriched with fiber.

“You can pick up a loaf of white bread that says ‘whole wheat,’ that just adds back isolated fiber,” she said.

The best defense, advises Hjelmgren, is to eat a wide variety of different whole grains.

Whole oats, popcorn, brown rice, whole-wheat pasta, barley and quinoa are some of the wide range of whole grain foods now available in most supermarkets.