Healthy Grains for a Healthy Life
For most Canadians, health and well-being is top-of-mind. With so much conflicting information on whole grains, choosing what you put on your plate can become confusing. Establishing a well-balanced diet that can be followed for life and getting adequate exercise is vital to maintaining your health. Incorporating whole grains, like bread, pasta, cereals and even popcorn, into your diet can help achieve successful and lasting weight loss. And on top of that, whole grains taste good.
When shopping for grain products like bread, pasta, bakeries, and cereals, you will come across various ingredients listed on the labels. Listed below are explanations of what the ingredients really mean:
- 100% Whole Grain: Products are made with 100% whole grain flour.
- Whole grain whole wheat flour: This flour is 100% whole grain, containing the bran, germ, and endosperm. Most whole grain whole wheat breads are made with this flour.
- Made with Whole Grain: This term means the product contains whole grains, but may also be mixed with other refined flour(s).
- Multi-Grain: A product labelled Multi-Grain simply means that it contains multiple grains; however, it may or may not contain whole grains.
- Whole Wheat: Under federal regulation, up to 5% of the wheat kernel (approximately 70% of the germ) can be removed during processing and can still be labelled “whole wheat”. Therefore, it does not mean that the product is 100% whole grain.
- Wheat flour: Also known as refined flour, this ingredient is often found in white bread. Refined flour, like wheat flour and all-purpose flour, has both bran and germ removed.
- Gluten-Free: A product with a gluten-free claim is made with non-gluten containing flour. It does not mean that it is 100% whole grain.
- Sprouted Grain:The sprouted grain process involves soaking grains in water until they begin to grow a sprout. This process helps make sprouted grain food low glycemic and easier to digest, enhancing the nutrient profile and final product texture. Most sprouted grain breads are 100% whole grain, but be sure to double check the ingredient list.
Grains and Your Health
Regular exercise and eating a nutritious diet that includes whole grains can help you maintain a healthy weight. Eating Well with Canada’s Food Guide recommends grain products as one of the four pillars to maintaining a healthy diet. Here are some facts and tips to help you incorporate whole grains into your diet.
- Whole grains include wheat, barley, rye, triticale, oats, buckwheat, coloured rice (black, brown and red), wild rice, corn, quinoa, millet, sorghum, amaranth, einkorn, spelt, kamut and teff.
- Whole grains can be eaten whole, cracked, split or ground. They can be milled into flour and used to make breads, cereals, pasta and other foods.
- Consumers should look for the first ingredient on the food’s label to contain the words “whole grain whole wheat flour,” whole grain,” “whole rye,” “whole oats,” “whole barley,” or “oatmeal” to ensure that the item mainly consists of whole grains.
- If a food label states that the package contains whole grain, the “whole grain” part of the food inside the package is required to have virtually the same proportions of bran, germ and endosperm as the harvested kernel does before it is processed.
- Eating a variety of different whole grains ensures you get more nutrients, but also helps make your meals and snacks more interesting.
- Whole grains contain complex carbohydrates that break down slowly, helping you sustain that full feeling that can prevent overeating.
- Most whole grain foods are naturally low in fat and cholesterol. It’s the spreads, toppings, and sauces that can add significant fat and calories. Incorporate lower fat nut butters and bean spreads like hummus to cut the fat and add texture and flavour to your meals.
- Start your morning with a whole grain cold cereal, bagel, or a bowl of oatmeal.
- Use whole grain bread, bagels, tortillas or pita bread for making sandwiches.
- When making bread, muffins, biscuits, pancakes or waffles at home, substitute whole grain whole wheat flour for half or all of the white flour.
- Choose 100% whole grain breads and pasta in addition to brown rice, nuts, seeds and legumes to lower the risk of heart disease.
- Enjoy popcorn for a snack.
- Be adventurous with less common whole grains such as whole grain barley, bulgur, kasha, amaranth, quinoa, teff, millet and couscous.