Switching to whole grain products almost caused a small revolt at my house. It didn’t look the same, it didn’t taste the same, and The Husband wanted answers. “Ummm…why are we eating brown rice and not white rice? And where is the white bread?!” If you are like my husband and I were, while you may eat a lot of refined or enriched grains, like white rice and white bread, you may not be getting enough whole grains in your diet.
Grains, especially whole grains, are an essential part of a healthy diet. Grains are good sources of complex carbohydrates and some key vitamins and minerals. Grains are also naturally low in fat. They’ve been linked to a lower risk of heart disease, diabetes, certain cancers and other health problems. Whole grains haven’t had their bran and germ removed by milling so they are better sources of fiber and other important nutrients. Whole grains are either single foods, such as brown rice and popcorn, or ingredients in products, such as whole wheat flour in bread. Refined grains are milled to give them a finer texture and extend their shelf life, but the process also removes many nutrients, including fiber. Refined grains include white flour, white rice, and white bread. Some refined grains are enriched, meaning some of the nutrients lost during processing are added back in.
If you want the all the benefits that grains have to offer, eat more whole grains than refined or even enriched grains. It is not difficult to find whole-grain versions of rice, bread, cereal, flour and pasta at most grocery stores. I purchase Wal-Mart’s Great Value brand whole wheat pastas, whole wheat bread, and brown rice, and it’s often the same price or just pennies more than the white varieties. If you’re not sure something has whole grains, check the product label or the Nutrition Facts panel. Look for the word “whole” on the package, and make sure whole grains appear among the first items in the ingredient list.
What about whole-wheat white bread? My husband’s biggest complaint about whole wheat bread is the texture. While I personally like the more ‘textured’ texture and nutty flavor of whole wheat bread, my husband prefers the taste and texture of white bread. The good news is that white whole-wheat bread is made with whole grains, just as is regular whole-wheat bread. White whole-wheat bread also is nutritionally similar to that of regular whole-wheat bread. So if you prefer the taste and texture of white bread but want the nutritional benefits of whole wheat, choose white whole-wheat bread — not regular, refined white bread.
Here are some practical ways to swap whole-grain versions of your favorite foods into your diet. Enjoy breakfasts that include whole-grain cereals, such as bran flakes, shredded wheat or oatmeal. Substitute whole-wheat toast or whole-grain bagels for plain bagels. Make sandwiches using whole-grain breads or rolls. Swap out white-flour tortillas with whole-wheat versions. I won The Husband over by using broth (chicken, beef or vegetable) instead of water to add lots of flavor to brown or wild rice. Eating a variety of whole grains not only ensures that you get more health-promoting nutrients but also helps make your meals and snacks more interesting.