logo



Shelly Barnes: Don’t lose out, get the nutrient-packed whole grain

Shelly Barnes • Updated Sep 19, 2017 at 10:15 PM

Most of us get enough servings of grain foods each day, but are they the right kind of grains? Most grain foods like bread and rolls are made with refined flours, which reduce the nutrients found in whole grains like fiber, vitamins, minerals like iron and potassium, anitoxidants and many phytochemicals. 

While some of these are replaced through enrichment, they are not usually replaced to the same level as found in the original whole-grain kernel.

So if we want the most out of our grains, we need to choose whole grain products.  Only 4 percent of U.S. adults and children older than 12 are consuming sufficient whole grains. 

Grains are made up of three parts – the bran on the outside, the endosperm, which is the main part of the grain, and the germ in the middle. The bran contains a lot of the fiber of the grain, and the germ contains a little fat and vitamins and phytochemicals.  When grains are refined into white flours, the bran and germ are removed, which removes a lot of the nutrients. As much as 75 percent of the phytochemicals are lost in the refining process. So eating more whole grains increases the nutrition of grain products.

Whole grains include whole-wheat flour, brown rice, oats, wild rice, bulgur, quinoa and more.  Just because a bread is brown doesn’t mean it is whole grain – they could have added molasses or other colorings. You can also purchase white products now that are whole grain. So the only way to know is to examine the ingredients on the label and look for the word “whole” and the name of the grain. One hundred percent wheat bread or multigrain doesn’t mean whole grain.

Many products come in whole grain versions today. Look for whole grain pastas, cereals, rice mixtures and breads. Make at least half of your daily grain servings whole grain, so you don’t miss out on all the nutrition grains have to offer.

Top 5 ways to get whole grains

• Make the breakfast switch: Look for whole grain cereal instead of your regular breakfast cereal.

• Try whole-grain versions: Try whole-wheat pasta in your next Italian night dinner.  Use brown rice to stuff your peppers. Look for the quick cooking brown rice for faster preparation time.

• Choose whole-grain snacks: Make low-fat popcorn or try whole-wheat or rye crackers the next time you have the munchies.

• Change up your bars: Look for granola and energy bars that are made with whole grains.

• White to whole white: Look for whole white wheat bread that looks and tastes like white but is a special type of whole wheat with all the nutrients of whole grain.

Nutty cranberry pilaf

• 1 tablespoon olive oil.                                        

• 12 ounces mushrooms, sliced.                           

• 1/2 large onion, chopped.                                     

• 1 cup quick cooking brown rice.                                 

• 1/2 cup bulgur wheat                                           

• 1 (10-ounce) can beef broth.                                     

• 1 1/2 cups water.                                           

• 1 teaspoon dried thyme.                                        

• 1/2 teaspoon salt.                                           

• 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper.                                     

• 1/2 cup dried cranberries, coarsely chopped.                    

• 1/2 cup toasted slivered almonds.                               

In large skillet, heat olive oil. Add mushrooms, onions, rice and wheat. Sauté until vegetables are softened and grains are browned. Add broth, water, thyme, salt and pepper. Simmer, covered for 15 minutes. Add cranberries and simmer five to 10 more minutes or until liquid is absorbed. Toss with almonds just before serving.

UT Extension provides a gateway to the University of Tennessee as the outreach unit of the Institute of Agriculture. With an office in every Tennessee county, UT Extension delivers educational programs and research-based information to citizens throughout the state and provides equal opportunities in all programming and employment. In cooperation with Tennessee State University, UT Extension works with farmers, families, youth and communities to improve lives by addressing problems and issues at the local, state and national levels.  Through its mission of research, teaching and extension, the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture touches lives and provides Real. Life. Solutions. ag.tennessee.edu.

For more information on this or other family and consumer sciences-related topics, contact Shelly Barnes, family and consumer sciences Extension agent for UT Extension in Wilson County. Barnes may be reached at sbarnes@utk.edu or 615-444-9584.

Recommended for You