The topic of whole grains and the fact that they're nutritionally much better for us than refined grains is so well known, I hesitated adding it to the list of Rookie Tips. However, it's so important, I wanted to at least touch on it briefly, and also remind you what to look for when shopping for whole grains.
First though, keep in mind when you're reading this that too many grains, unrefined or not, and especially grains that aren't properly prepared, can be detrimental to your health. For some people grains are difficult to digest, and eliminating them, at least for a time, have helped many recover from various health issues.
What is a “whole grain” anyway?
Whole grains are grains that still have the bran, germ and endosperm intact, unlike refined grains, which retain only the endosperm. Whole grains are generally less denatured and processed – the “whole grain” isn't separated into different parts, you're ingesting and digesting it the way they all come in nature: together.
DON'T BE DUPED!
Read what Wikipedia says about shopping for whole grain bread:
“Wheat flour” (as opposed to “whole-grain wheat flour” or “whole-wheat flour”) as the first ingredient is not a clear indicator of the product's whole grain content. In addition, some food manufacturers make foods with whole-grain ingredients, but, because whole-grain ingredients are not the dominant ingredient, they are not whole-grain products. Contrary to popular belief, fiber is not indicative of whole-grains. The amount of fiber varies from grain to grain, and some products may have things like bran, peas, or other foods added to boost the fiber content.
Other misleading descriptions include:
“contains whole grain”
“made with whole wheat”
The very first ingredient needs to be a whole grain flour in order for it to truly be whole grain bread.
ONLY WHOLE GRAINS?
The best case scenario, especially if you're dieting, is to eat very few grains and best is to eat them whole and unrefined WITH a healthy fat like butter, which along with the fiber in the whole grain, will slow down the insulin response – the very thing you want to happen when trying to lose weight.
I have to confess that although we definitely eat mostly whole grains, occasionally we may have a pizza with refined flour from the local pizza place, or depending on what we're having, we may occasionally have an organic pasta or rice that isn't whole grain. When I'm making homemade breads, I'll also sometimes add part unbleached white flour, so it's less refined) with the whole grain flour, because it turns out better for me that way. (***UPDATE – here are my posts on taking this further and making your grains even healthier – by grinding your own flour and soaking/sprouting your grains. Also, here is my bread-making saga, but since this is a Rookie Tip, you may not want to go there yet…)
HOW DO YOU GET THE KIDS (OR YOUR SPOUSE) TO EAT IT?
Easy, you don't buy anything else. For a while they may choose not to eat it at all, but eventually they'll come back to it. Trust me, I've been there. We only ate white bread for years and I was able to get our kids switched over, so I know you can do it, too. Warning: you may need tough skin to put up with the complaints, but if you're a Mom, you're already used to that!
HEALTHY OR CHEAP?
The key, though, is finding a good tasting soft loaf of whole grain bread – it can be done, but it's not always easy. For a while we were only eating a store-bought whole grain bread made without high fructose corn syrup or trans fats because it was so soft, everyone loved it, and I could get it inexpensively at the day-old bread store. But I go in streaks between being healthy and being frugal. Now I'm back to wanting to avoid all the pesticides and preservatives, and I'm only buying organic again. We have great locally baked bread – and this bread is not just local, it is also 100% whole wheat (lately we love the multi-grain more), organic, fermented, soft, AND everyone loves it! (The only drawback is that it is $3/loaf.) Maybe you can find something similar by checking around you. OR even better than all this, make your own bread! Soon I'll post a great recipe.
UPDATE: HERE IT IS! I've finally got my homemade bread recipe down, and we all love it – it's very economical, too!
Another UPDATE on properly preparing grains for optimal nutrition.
IF YOU HAVE MORE TIPS FOR SWITCHING YOUR FAMILY OVER TO WHOLE GRAINS, PLEASE COMMENT BELOW!
- Healthy Bread Choices
- Read about alternative whole grains
- Easy bread/buns/cinnamon rolls recipe
- Whole grains may curb belly fat
- More about the differences between whole grains vs. refined grains
- How safe is Fluoride in your drinking water?
- Have you heard that coconut oil is an unhealthy oil? DON'T BELIEVE IT!
- Read more Rookie Tips, especially if all this is overwhelming to you (I felt that way in the beginning too, and still do sometimes!)
photo by Mr.Bologna