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A variety of breat, wheat, and flour on a table.

Do you really need to eat whole grain foods?

July 25, 2015

Bread is bread, right? So does it really matter whether it’s white bread or whole grain bread? If you’ve been eating white bread, white pasta, and white rice your whole life, you might think switching to whole grains is too hard isn't important, or you may think it's impossible. Think again! One of the most important differences between whole grains and refined grains is fiber. Whole grains, such as whole wheat, oats, and bran are naturally high in fiber, which can:

  • Keep your blood sugar levels from spiking.
  • Reduce bad cholesterol.
  • Help you feel fuller longer.

Unfortunately refined white grains have almost the exact opposite effect on the body causing your blood sugars to rise quickly and making you feel hungrier sooner.

Is it whole grain or not? How can you tell?

Beware! You cannot always tell by how the food looks. Food companies often add brown food coloring to their products, and then people think they are whole grain. In order to really know whether a food contains whole grains, you must read the label.

Look for ingredients that say “whole,” such as whole wheat flour or whole grain flour. Oats and brown rice are also whole grains. Ingredients that say “enriched” – enriched wheat flour, for example – are not whole grains.

The USDA recommends that half of the grains you eat are whole grains. You may consider mixing your brown and white grains together to help you get the fiber you need while you adjust to the new taste.

Try mixing brown rice into your white rice, or add whole grain pasta into your white pasta. Taking a simple step like adding more whole grains into your diet can help you start down the path of good nutrition. So ditch the white bread, and go whole grain instead.

– Loyola Medicine dietitians