Grocery shopping can be confusing when you choose between “whole wheat” and “whole grain” and “multigrain” breads and cereals. What’s behind the pretty packaging, and what do these familiar terms on the labels mean? Many shoppers have a vague idea, but here’s the real skinny. The high fiber content of whole-grain bread, rolls, and wraps helps you manage weight by promoting a healthy digestive system and making you feel full longer.
“Whole grain” means that all three parts of the grain – bran, germ and endosperm—have been left intact. Bran is packed with fiber, B vitamins, and antioxidants. The germ contains protein, minerals, and healthy fats. The endosperm provides starch.
“Whole wheat” products are as nutritionally healthy as other whole-grain products. A product packaged as “whole wheat” has all parts of the wheat grain intact, and it hasn’t been mixed with other grains.
“Multigrain” means the product has multiple grains in it. That’s all. The grains aren’t whole grains. The product usually combines refined and unrefined grains.
“Refined grains” lose some of the nutritious parts of the grain during processing. This choice is less nutritious than 100 percent whole grain.
How should a smart shopper surf the grocery aisle for bagels, croissants and bear claws? Keep in mind that foods offering 100 percent whole grain give you maximum nutrition. Whole wheat is a great backup option. Take care reading the label on multigrain items. Coming in last on the list are refined grains and white bread.
Put your knowledge about grains to work and use these tips:
- Read the labels.
Look for the whole grain stamp on the package. The stamp means that all the grains in the item are whole, and one serving will provide at least 16 grams of whole grains. Nearly 9,000 products on the market in America carry this label. Labels that say “50 percent whole grain “mean the product has at least half of its grains from whole grains. A “basic stamp “means less than half of the grains are whole.
- Look at the ingredients.
Look for recognizable natural ingredients. Clues such as “enriched” or “bleached” give you a heads-up that some or all of the food contains refined grains. See any artificial flavors, colors, or preservatives on the label?
- Focus on fiber.
You need 25 grams of fiber each day. Any whole-grain food should give you at least 4 grams of fiber per serving toward that goal.