Getting Granular on Whole Grains

I was in D.C. for a few days this week attending "Make (at least!) Half Your Grains Whole," a conference hosted by Boston-based think tank Oldways and its sister program, the Whole Grains Council.

The very name of the conference is derived from recommendations made in the 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, a joint effort of the Departments of Health & Human Services (HHS) and Agriculture (USDA). As part of a balanced diet, the federal government recommends three or more servings of whole grains a day for ages nine and older.

Sounds easy enough, right? But as I listened to the many speakers (representing science, industry, media and nutrition, to name just a few) present their findings about public consumption and perception of whole grains, I found myself saying out loud: Now wait a second; how many of us not in this room actually know what a whole grain is to begin with? What makes it whole versus refined? And can the average person name three commonly known whole grains, let alone eat them on a daily basis?

Let's backtrack for a moment and define "whole grain": Whole is the clue here, an indication that all three components of a grain seed or kernel are intact -- the bran, germ and endosperm. When one of these components is removed from the triumvirate, the grain is considered refined.

Examples of whole grains that you may already have in your cupboard are: Popcorn, rolled oats, oatmeal, brown rice, rye and various forms of wheat, including bulgur and spelt.

And then there are whole-grain products that work as ingredients, such as whole wheat, graham or rye flour.

Finally, there are ready-to-eat whole-grain products -- bread, cookies, breakfast cereal, pasta and snacks -- which now are labeled as such if they meet the standards of the Whole Grain Council (some 2,500 products in stores now wear this label).

Perhaps now we can return to the original question: Where do whole grains fit into your life and are you getting the daily recommended three servings?

I will continue this series in small chunks over the next several weeks to help get everyone up to speed on what constitutes a whole grain and what does NOT. It seems we all could use some brushing up on this topic, including yours truly.

By Kim ODonnel |  April 23, 2009; 9:50 AM ET Grains , Wellness
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The most nutritious grain is Quinoa. The Center for Science in the Public Interest, (CSPI) give it 71 points for half a cup cooked. The most nutritious vegetable is collard greens with 461 points. People, grains are good in small amounts, but if you have a love affair with raw or lightly steamed vegetables, the non-starchy kind, you will lose weight, have a tenth of your appetite, and they contain lots of enzymes. Eating whole grains still have lots of carbs, a little sugar, some B vitamins etc., small amounts of fiber but eating them makes you hungry for more, so they should be eaten in very small amounts, unless you are doing lots of cardio. If you don't eat too much of them, you won't need lots of cardio.

Recently I learned why we should eat our protein first. This is so the hydrochloric acid can break proteins down. Don't waste HCA on salad unless the protein is in the salad. Undigested proteins cause flatulence, then those proteins they can gunk up your organs, brain, give you arthritic joints, cause cancer, and make you fat. I recently went vegan due to gout pain, lost 21 pounds in ten weeks and am barely hungry. I haven't had any animal food, grains or dairy and don't miss them. When I get my weight down all the way, I will incorporate small amounts of whole grain, but they just make me so hungry. Vegetables, beans, tofu, rice protein powder in a smoothie works for my type A blood. You can eat whatever you want, I think people can do well on meat and fish and dairy, but too much grains, even whole, will stick to you if you are already heavy. When I ate whole grains, I just kept gaining weight, and I am active. Only eat them in the morning my trainer says. Exercise amounts determines how much you should eat, in my opinion. Otherwise you are just fattening up your body like a cow eating corn and oats. Vegetables are the key to health. Eat them even if you don't like them much. Your body will. If you are fat and tired of it, eat some raw salads with a little protein at every meal, berry smoothies for breakfast, apples and nuts for an afternoon snack, carrots too, take them with you on the road or to work, and you will purge all the extra pounds and bulge from your body. Then you will love your vegetables.

Posted by: Lydiasings | April 23, 2009 11:19 AM

Thanks, Kim. Along these whole-grain lines, you'd said in an earlier post that you'd be posting recipes for whole wheat/whole grain breads. Are you still planning on doing that?

Posted by: jbs280 | April 23, 2009 12:09 PM

jbs280: Cook's Illustrated had a great multi-grain bread recipe in, ... 2005 I think. The core was a 7grain hot cereal mix, CI liked Bob's Red Mills brand. I have a high failure rate with it - about 1 out of 3 - because I don't pay enough attention. But the result is worth it.

Posted by: fitday19550 | April 23, 2009 1:26 PM

Hi Kim,

I'm really looking forward to what else you can share on this topic. In casual reading (e.g. The Post health section or food articles) I've not been able to get my head around what is or is not a whole grain, or what constitutes a serving. I tend to eat a fair amount of bulgar and quinoa, but more info on other options would be great!

Posted by: shhh | April 23, 2009 1:37 PM

This is one of my biggest eating challenges, as I have celiac and cannot eat wheat, oats, rye, spelt, or their many variations. I do like quinoa and am trying to eat more brown rice (the longer cooking time makes this tougher). When you can have oatmeal at breakfast and a sandwich on whole grain bread, it seems like it shouldn't be too hard to get three servings, but this is very difficult for me. Kim, any suggestions you have would be welcome. A person can only consume so much quinoa.

Posted by: Agfras | April 23, 2009 1:47 PM

Agfras, you answered my longtime question regarding oats and gluten. My favorite quick cooking grain is amaranth. It is very tiny and is good with a little miso paste and sesame butter added in after it is cooked. You can also cook it in half water, half vegetable stock. It takes eleven minutes in a little rice cooker. ships lots of gluten free baked products made from brown rice flour, millet flour and flax seed.

Millet is another grain that is very alkaline and you can cook it and then put it into a loaf pan and let it set, and then cut a slice as a serving, or just cook it with a little veggie stock. My husband has brown rice, millet, and steel cut oats (cooked together once and week and stored), with berries, almond milk and flax seed oil for breakfast every morning. Cook your brown rice ahead of time and keep it in the fridge, then just reheat it.

If you can barely see your fingerprints and have lines in them, that is a genotype trait of Celiac disease or gluten intolerance. If you go gluten free for two years or more, the fingerprints supposedly get healthier looking and the lines go away. I am still waiting. I just found that out last year.

Posted by: Lydiasings | April 23, 2009 4:00 PM

Thank you so much for this column.

Get RID of all-purpose flour, unless your kid needs it for papier-mache for a school volcano project.

I substitute whole-wheat flour one-for-one in every recipe I bake - piecrust, cookies, biscuits, anything. The only uses I have for unbleached white flour are roux, crepes, and the occasional sopaipilla. It works fine, tastes great, and has better texture.

Get away from "eating white". Refined rice, flour, etc. are all high-glycemic - will make your pancreas work too hard. Not to mention the nutrients which just got refined away.

Whole grains are way more filling, too, which means that you eat less and get more.

Thank you again. L

Posted by: lsgc | April 23, 2009 4:49 PM

Agfras: I, too, was stymied by brown rice. Rice cooker? Takes 2 hours, too long for a weekday dinner unless I plan ahead *and* guess right about what the day is going to be like. Stovetop? One hr is too long for weekday use. Pressure cooker? The only way I could manage not to burn the rice was to boil it like pasta, in lots of water; it tasted watery and washed out. Parboiled brown rice, such as Minute Rice? It's OK if swamped by something else but the texture is no good if you want to taste rice. (Curiously, parboiled brown rice yields up *more* of its nutritional goodness than other forms.)

After much experimentation and eating of subpar rice, I finally cracked the code! I use brown _medium-grain_ rice and a fuzzy logic rice cooker (fuzzy logic rice cookers are the type you can program and that turn themselves on and off). The trick has two parts:
1) Use half again as much water as called for. My rice cooker has measurements marked on the pot: water to "this" mark for one measure of rice, etc. So for one measure of brown rice I fill to halfway between the "one" and "two" marks.
2) Use the regular cycle, which is designed for white rice and includes a soaking period.

The regular cycle takes 43 min, which is about how long it takes me to assemble any but the fastest dinners.

Posted by: fitday19550 | April 24, 2009 9:17 AM

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