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Whole Grain, White Products, and Everything in Between

Have unclear and overcomplicated nutrition labels ever left you feeling misled and confused in a grocery store? If so, you are not alone. When it comes to food and packaging companies, it seems like they will do anything to make their products appear healthy and appealing. However, at the end of the day, it is important for us to be choosing the right foods to be purchasing and subsequently putting into our bodies. 

One question that seems to linger among buyers is the difference between whole grain, white products, and everything in between. Essentially, whole wheat products contain all parts of the grain (the bran, germ, and endosperm), while “white” products contain only the endosperm. The endosperm contains most of the sugars and is where white products receive its “fluffiness” from. However, the bran and germ are what contain most of the nutrients (most notably, the fiber). Without these two components, the product looses much of its nutritional value. 

So, what do we look for in the grocery store? Below are some tips to help you navigate your way through the bread, pasta, and rice aisles with ease:

1.) Wheat flour, whole grain wheat flour, enriched wheat flour, unbleached enriched wheat flour…which one do you choose? Real, whole grain products will have the word “whole” before the first ingredient. In this case, the only real whole grain product is the one that says “whole grain wheat flour.”

2.) “Enriched “ wheat flour is not the same as whole grain flour. In fact, it is almost identical to white products. Enriched means that manufacturers have stripped away key nutrients during processing and then added some back in to disguise as the original product.

3.) Migrate towards foods that are always whole grain, such as oatmeal, popcorn, and brown rice.

4.) Buy products that say “100% whole grain” or “100% whole wheat.” Foods that say 100% wheat, multi-grain, contains whole grain, 7-grain, made with whole grains, etc. are normally NOT whole grain. 

5.) Don’t be fooled by colors. Some darker colored pastas, bread, etc. may not be whole grain, while some lighter foods may be 100% whole grain. Always looks at the labels before you buy!

For more information, check out this article by the USDA: 

https://www.fns.usda.gov/sites/default/files/how_to_tell_whole_grain.pdf 

Stephanie Spoto, CSCS

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