This information has been reviewed and adapted for use in South Carolina by J. G. Hunter, HGIC Information Specialist, and K. L. Cason, Professor, State EFNEP Coordinator, Clemson University. (New 09/05.)
Currently most Americans consume less than a single serving of whole grains daily. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2005 recommends eating 6 ounces of grain products every day, and at least half of this amount should be whole grains.
This recommendation is based on a 2,000-calorie diet; therefore, you may need to eat more or less, depending on your calorie level. Go to www.MyPyramid.gov for your personal plan according to age, sex and activity level.
Whole grains are important sources of fiber and other nutrients. Consuming a diet rich in whole grains, as part of an overall healthy diet, may reduce the risk for:
*In a study funded by USDA Agricultural Research Service (ARS), women with a history of heart disease who ate six or more servings of whole grains weekly had slower progression of atherosclerosis. That is a condition in which plaque builds up and narrows the passageways through which blood flows.
**In another recent ARS study, people who ate at least three servings of whole-grain foods per day were less likely to have metabolic syndrome. That is a condition marked by a combination of abdominal obesity, high triglycerides, low HDL "good" cholesterol, high blood pressure, and poor blood sugar control—all of which increase risk for diabetes and heart disease.
Grains are represented by the orange band on MyPyramid, USDA’s latest food guide, which shows that foods from all groups are needed daily for good health.
The grains group includes any food made from wheat, rice, oats, cornmeal, barley or other cereal grain. Bread, pasta, oatmeal, breakfast cereals, tortillas, and grits are examples of grain products.
Whole grains contain the entire grain kernel—the bran, germ, and endosperm. The outer covering is the part that contains the grain’s fiber and many of its vitamins and minerals.
At least half of the grain foods you eat should be whole grains. Some common whole grains are: whole wheat flour, whole wheat bread, whole wheat crackers, whole wheat pasta, whole wheat sandwich buns and rolls, whole wheat tortillas, bulgur (cracked wheat), whole grain barley, whole grain, whole rye, oatmeal, whole grain cornmeal, buckwheat, brown rice, wild rice and popcorn.
In addition, there are ready-to-eat breakfast cereals such as whole wheat cereal flakes, muesli and Kasha (buckwheat groats). Groats are buckwheat kernels that are stripped of their inedible outer coating and then crushed into smaller pieces.
Note: Wheat flour, enriched flour, and de-germinated cornmeal are not whole grains.
Refined (Processed) grains have been milled, which removes the bran (fiber-rich outer layer) and the germ (nutrient-rich inner part). This gives them a finer texture and improves shelf life, but it also removes dietary fiber, iron, and many B vitamins and minerals.
Most refined grains are enriched by adding back certain B vitamins and iron during or after processing. However, fiber and many other micronutrients are not added back, so they are not nutritionally equal to whole grains.
Although the food industry is working to increase the availability of whole grain products, most breads and cereals sold today are still made with refined flours. Some common examples of refined grains include: white flour, white bread, white sandwich buns and rolls, white rice, corn or flour tortillas, de-germinated cornmeal, cornbread, couscous, crackers, grits, noodles, spaghetti, macaroni, pitas, pretzels, and ready-to-eat corn flakes.
Whole grain foods provide energy, a wide variety of vitamins and minerals, antioxidants, phytochemicals and dietary fiber. All of these nutrients are vital for the health and maintenance of our bodies.
Whole Grains Contain Several Nutrients:
Dietary fiber—helps reduce blood cholesterol levels, may lower risk of heart disease, helps reduce constipation and diverticulosis, and helps provide a feeling of fullness with fewer calories. Whole grains are good sources of dietary fiber, but most refined (processed) grains contain little fiber.
Thiamin (vitamin B1)—helps produce energy from carbohydrates in all body cells.
Riboflavin (vitamin B2)—helps produce energy in all body cells, and helps change tryptophan, an amino acid, into niacin.
Niacin (a B vitamin)—helps the body use sugars and fatty acids, helps enzymes function normally in the body, and help produce energy in all body cells.
Folate (folic acid)—helps the body form red blood cells, and is important during pregnancy to reduce a woman’s risk of having a baby with a spinal cord or brain defect.***
Iron—carries oxygen in the blood and reduces risk of iron-deficiency anemia.
Magnesium—builds bones and releases energy from muscles.
Selenium—protects cells from oxidation and helps build a healthy immune system.
Phytochemicals—help protect against diseases, serve as antioxidants, detoxifiers, immune boosters and anti-inflammatories. Inflammation plays a major role in heart attacks, some cancers, allergies, Alzheimer’s, and autoimmune diseases.
***In 1998 the United States began a folic acid fortification program, requiring that folic acid be added to many common grain and cereal products: some breakfast and ready-to-eat-cereals, enriched flours, breads, pastas, crackers, corn grits, cornmeal, rice, macaroni, and other grain products. This has helped to increase consumption of folic acid.
In addition to folic acid, enriched refined grain products that conform to standards of identity are required by law to be fortified with thiamin, riboflavin, niacin and iron.
Most Americans consume enough grain products, although few are whole grains. MyPyramid and The Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2005 recommend eating about 6 ounces of grains per day. At least half of that amount, or 3 ounces, should be whole grains. This is based on a 2,000 calorie diet. The exact amount you need depends on your age, sex, and level of physical activity.
|Age||Ounces or Ounce Equivalents||Ounces From Whole Grains|
The amounts shown on the chart are appropriate for people who get less than 30 minutes per day of moderate physical activity, beyond normal daily activities. If you are more physically active, you may be able to eat more while staying within your calorie needs.
1 ounce = 1 regular slice of bread = 1 cup of breakfast cereal (approximately) = ½ cup cooked rice, cereal or pasta
Other amounts that count as one ounce equivalents:
Bagel: ½ "mini"
Biscuit: 1 small (2" diameter)
Bread: 1 small slice French, 4 snack-size slices rye
Cornbread: 1 small piece (2½" x 1¼" x 1¼")
Crackers: 7 square saltines, 5 whole wheat, 2 rye crisp breads
Muffin: 1 small (2½" diameter)
English muffin: ½ muffin
Oatmeal: ½ cup cooked, 1 packet instant, or 1 ounce dry (regular or quick)
Pancakes: 2 small (3" diameter), 1 regular (4½" diameter)
Popcorn: 3 cups, popped
Ready-to-eat breakfast cereal: 1 cup flakes or rounds, or 1¼ cup puffed
Rice: ½ cup cooked, or 1 ounce dry
Pasta—spaghetti, macaroni, noodles: ½ cup cooked, or 1 ounce dry
Tortillas: 1 small (6" diameter), flour or corn
It is important to recognize what counts as one serving, or a one ounce equivalent, because most Americans are used to eating much more than that. The following larger portions are more common:
4 ounce equivalents—a large bagel, a 12" tortilla or a microwave bag of popcorn (popped);
3 ounce equivalents—3 pancakes (4½" diameter) or a muffin (3½" diameter);
2 ounce equivalents— a 3" biscuit or a medium piece of cornbread (2½" x 2½" x 1¼’).
|Food Choices||Grams of Fiber|
|1 oz. bran flake cereal||4.0|
|1 medium banana||2.4|
|6 oz. orange juice||0.5|
|1 sandwich (2 slices whole wheat bread)||3.0|
|2 cookies (fig bars)||2.0|
|1 large pear, with skin||6.2|
|Spaghetti (1 cup pasta)||1.1|
|1¾ cup salad (mixed greens with carrots, broccoli, kidney beans)||7.1|
Plan ahead. Buy a variety of nutrient-rich food for meals and snacks throughout the week. Take this basic grains shopping list with you every time you go to the grocery store:
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