Southern Illinois University Carbondale

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Whole Grains 101

It seems like every time you walk through the grocery store, watch a TV commercial about food, or look at a food label, the words “Whole Grain” appear. What exactly does “Whole Grain” mean though? Does it mean that you’ll literally be eating a piece of wheat in each bite? Does it taste funny? What’s so great about whole grains, anyways? Read on to find out!

Before we find out the benefits of whole grains, it’s important to know exactly what whole grains are. Foods are considered to be whole grain when 100% of the original kernel is present, and this means that all of the nutrients that are found in unprocessed grains still have to be present in processed grains. Processing grains can include things like cooking, crushing (to make flour!), or rolling (like oats!). With the “Whole Grain” label, you can be sure that all of the naturally-occurring nutrients are accounted for in the final product. This isn’t true of products like white bread, where some of the nutrients have been lost due to processing and removing part of the original kernel.

The theory of whole grains is that if you don’t take away part of the grain, you’ll still be left with all of the good nutrients! These nutrients, which include fiber, protein, manganese, magnesium, and phosphorous to name a few, provide many health benefits!

Top Health Benefits of Whole Grains

  1. Weight maintenance
  2. Reduced risk of stroke
  3. Reduced risk of heart disease
  4. Reduced risk of type 2 diabetes

To reap these benefits, add some whole grains to your diet! It’s easy! Switch your white bread to 100% whole grain bread; just look for whole wheat flour as the first ingredient. Start your day off with some oatmeal for an easy switch to whole grains. Buy some whole grain pasta; it’ll fill you up with fiber but still tastes great! Add some brown rice to your dinner as a side dish; toss in some cooked vegetables for an even bigger nutrient punch. Try new foods, too! Never tried quinoa? Sample some at the dining halls or make your own at home.

Eating whole grains is easy, delicious, and good for you! The next time you go to the grocery store or dining hall, keep these great tips in mind!

Happy Spring!

Your University Housing Nutrition Team
Residence Hall Dining

Emily Feagans
Dietetics Graduate Assistant

Cecily Haase
Undergraduate Nutrition Intern