You have probably seen familiar products like bread, crackers, cereal, and pasta boasting that they include some whole grains. What are whole grains and how are they nutritionally different from refined ones?
A whole grain is the entire seed of a plant. You can imagine it growing.
Whole grains have three parts.
- Bran: the protective outer shell
- Endosperm: the starchy energy-dense center (sugar)
- Germ: the genetic material for a new plant
A refined grain is produced by removing the bran and germ from the whole grain. A refined grain is solely the starchy endosperm.
The bran and the germ are both packed with nutrients. B vitamins are essential for building healthy cells around the body including blood cells. They support energy, immune function, and brain health. The vitamin E found in the germ is an antioxidant that protects the body’s cells from damage. It is naturally found in the germ of grains with healthy fats (monounsaturated and polyunsaturated). These fats not only help vitamin E absorb, but they are also used to provide energy, support cell growth, and regulate blood cholesterol levels. The fiber found in the bran of whole grains is a health-promoting powerhouse! Fiber supports heart health, blood sugar balance, and weight management.
Whole grains will differ from other seeds in their type and quantity of nutrients, but they will always contain more nutritional value than their refined endosperm. However, refined grains do have important cultural and culinary value in foods!
The intention of this posting is to bring attention to the health benefits of consuming whole grains and to encourage an exploration of the diverse array of seeds available.
Katie is part of HIPs 2021 HungerCorps team, running the Shoreline Library and North City Elementary Summer Eats sites. She just earned her MS in Nutrition from Bastyr University and is on the path to becoming a Registered Dietitian. Katie is passionate about everything related to eating, and is excited to begin a career connecting people with food, which is found at the center of health, culture, and community.