Eating grains, especially whole grains, provides many health benefits. Recent research suggests that whole grains can lower the risk of heart disease, stroke, colon cancer, and diabetes. The grain group includes wheat, rice, oats, corn, barley, and rye.

Generally, adults need the equivalent of 5 to 8 ounces each day. This is an achievable goal due to how small of a serving size this is. One ounce equals one slice of bread, one cup of breakfast cereal, or 1/2 cup of cooked rice or pasta.

Do you know the difference between refined grains and whole grains? Most of us eat largely-refined grain foods such as white bread, white rice, crackers, bagels, and pretzels.

However, whole-grain foods such as whole-wheat bread, oatmeal, brown rice, and popcorn provide better health benefits. That is why MyPlate encourages us to make half of our grains whole. This means we should eat at least 2 ½ to 4 ounces of whole-grain foods every day.

Unlike refined grains, whole grains retain the highly nutritious bran layer and germ. These are lost during the milling process to create refined grains. The bran and germ contain most of the grain’s beneficial fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Antioxidants are compounds that help slow down the aging process and may lower the risk of many diseases.

You can make economical choices and still include whole grain foods in your diet. Oatmeal that is packaged in a large canister is one of the lowest-priced whole grains. You can also look for store-brand shredded wheat, raisin bran, and bran flakes. Store brand whole-wheat bread often costs about the same as white bread. It is important to remember that when purchasing bread, a lot of “wheat” bread is made mainly with refined white flour with added coloring from caramel or molasses. Check for “whole wheat” on the label rather than just “wheat”. Whole-grain foods have about 3 grams of fiber per 100 calories or about 2 to 3 grams per slice of bread. Check the Nutrition Facts label on the package to see how much fiber is in the food before you buy.

Read this column at www.ouachitacitizen.com for a recipe for delicious bran muffins.

Markaye Russell

Area Nutrition Agent

Ouachita, and Union Parishes

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