Grains are broken down into two subgroups: whole grains and refined grains. Whole grains are much better than refined grains for increasing your fiber intake, providing essential nutrients, and contributing to good health.

A whole-grain food is made from the entire grain kernel. The bran is the outer layer of the grain and supplies antioxidants, B vitamins, trace minerals, and fiber. The germ, nestled inside the endosperm, is tiny but packs a powerful punch, supplying B vitamins, vitamin E, trace minerals, antioxidants, essential fats, and fiber. The endosperm, or the inner part of the grain kernel, contains most of the protein and starchy carbohydrates. The endosperm supplies only small amounts of vitamins and minerals and no fiber.


While whole grains contain all three parts of the kernel, refined grains contain only the endosperm. This is why whole grains contain all the fiber and most of the nutrients. Refined grains are basically whole grains that have been processed or milled and have had the bran and germ removed. Milling provides the grain with a finer texture and improves the shelf life; however, it also strips away dietary fiber, iron, and essential vitamins

Because so many nutrients are stripped away during the milling process of refining grains, most of these grains are enriched, meaning that some of the nutrients that were lost during processing are added back into the food. When the bran and germ are stripped away, about 25 percent of a grain’s protein and most of the key nutrients are lost. These are nutrients that were naturally present in the food to begin with. Some B vitamins and iron are added back in, but fiber is not added to enriched grains. This sums up why it is best to choose whole-grain food rather than choosing ones made from refined grains. Shoot for a goal of getting at least half, if not all, of your grains for the day from whole grains.


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