What is a whole grain?

We all know whole grain is good for our health. But do we actually know what it is?

Anatomy of a grain of wheat

The USDA recommends getting at least 16 grams of whole grains during three meals, or 48 grams a day. And this small-but-mighty food source may help reduce the risk of heart disease and certain cancers, help manage diabetes, keep digestive tracts on track, and aid in maintaining a healthy body weight. But what exactly is it?

Bran, Endosperm, Germ Diagram

A whole grain is just that—whole. It's the grain seed in its pure form. All whole grains start out as whole grains. Refined grains, like white flour, capture only the endosperm—the bran and the germ aren't used, so vitamins, minerals, fibers, phytonutrients, and antioxidants disappear. The bran is the outside shell that protects the seed, which contains fiber, vitamin B, and trace minerals. The germ provides the nourishment for the seed and holds antioxidants and vitamins E and B.

Anatomy of a grain of wheat

Wheat Anatomy

Bran
Fiber, B Vitamins, Trace Minerals
Flour
Carbohydrates, Protein, B vitamins
Germ
Phytonutrients, Vitamin E, B vitamins, Antioxidants

Corn, or maize, is a grain like wheat or rice only the grain head, the ear, is greatly enlarged.

Whole grain fiber, and not fiber from other food sources, is associated with lower risk of colorectal cancer.

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