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Whole Grains Promote Whole Body Health

Karen Alexander, Licensed Registered Dietitian Nutritionist

September 13, 2021

Let’s Celebrate Whole Grain Month!


For thousands of years, whole grains have been part of the human diet. Grains provide dietary fiber, inulin, beta-glucan, resistant starch, carotenoids, vitamin E, and several B vitamins and minerals among other nutrients. Studies have shown that eating whole grains provides health benefits including the reduction of cardiovascular diseases and strokes, hypertension, metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes mellitus, obesity, and different forms of cancer.

What are the differences between whole grains and refined grains?

A century ago, virtually all grains were ground in gristmills and eaten whole. It is only within the past 100 years that a majority of the population has started to consume refined grain products. To understand the difference between a whole grain and a refined grain, you need to know that grains have three edible parts:

  1. Outer bran- rich in fiber and B vitamins
  2. Germ- full of antioxidants
  3. Starchy endosperm- mainly carbohydrates, proteins, and some vitamins and minerals

Whole grains- Whole grains keep all three edible parts and the full variety of nutrients originally found in the grain. Look for the “Whole Grain Stamp” on the package to help identify the amount of grams of whole grains in one serving of the product.

Refined grains- Refined grains or refined flours remove the bran and germ (the healthiest parts), which reduces at least 17 key nutrients. By law, refined grains need to add 5 of those nutrients back (enriched flours), but even with the addition you are still missing nutrients.

Whole grains alternatives for people with gluten intolerance or gluten allergies

Some people have allergies or intolerances to gluten. Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye, and barley. Most gluten-free products such as flour, cereal, pasta, and crackers have very little fiber content and some of them have even more sugar and sodium than their counterparts. However, people with an allergy or intolerance to gluten can still enjoy a variety of gluten-free whole grains that are rich in fiber such as corn, brown rice, oats, wild rice, amaranth, buckwheat, quinoa, millet, sorghum, and teff. Just remember to eat the whole grain version.

5 health benefits of eating more whole grains
  1. Healthy digestion
  2. Lower risk of colorectal cancer
  3. Lower BMI and less obesity
  4. Lower risk of type 2 diabetes
  5. Lower risk of heart disease (lower LDL “bad” cholesterol and lower risk of stroke)
5 tips for including more whole grains in your diet
  1. Choose whole grains over refined items when selecting breads, buns, bagels, tortillas, pastas and other grains
  2. Choose whole wheat or multigrain breads, cereals, crackers, and choose a bowl of oatmeal, multigrain or buckwheat waffles or pancakes
  3. Add brown rice, quinoa, barley, corn, or whole wheat rotini to soups and salads
  4. Add a side of wild rice, quinoa, or whole wheat pasta to your dinner
  5. Choose granola bars, 100% whole-wheat or rye crackers, and popcorn
Tips and recipes to cook with a variety of whole grains
Tips to improve your baking goods when using whole grains
Recipe of the Week


One-Pan Farro with Mushroom and Peas


  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 green onions- chopped
  • 8 ounces baby bella mushrooms- cleaned, trimmed and sliced
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • 1 teaspoon chopped garlic
  • 1 cup dry farro (you can substitute for barley or quinoa)
  • 1 teaspoon sweet paprika
  • 1 sprig fresh thyme- leaves only
  • 2 ¼ cup vegetable broth (or chicken broth)
  • ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • ¼ cup fresh mint leaves- chopped
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  1. In a deep skillet with a lid, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium-high heat
  2. Add green onions, mushrooms and peas; sauté for 3-4 minutes. Add fresh garlic and stir briefly until fragrant
  3. Add farro, sweet paprika, thyme, and a little salt and pepper. Cook for 4-5 minutes, stirring regularly
  4. Meanwhile, in a separate pot, boil the vegetable broth. Add the boiling broth to the farro mixture
  5. Bring everything to a boil, then lower heat to medium-low. Cover and cook for 20 minutes until the liquid is absorbed
  6. Remove from heat and add grated Parmesan and fresh mint leaves. Serve warm



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