The Grain Game

by Heather Ferber on September 4, 2011

A couple weeks back a few of my girlfriends and I were chatting about all the potential confusion in the bread aisle -whole grain, refined grain, sprouted, wheat, and white and the list could go on.  My friends thought a blog entry on the differences between all these grains and breads would be helpful to a lot of my readers who are now prepping lunches as the kids go back to school.

Grains (sometimes called cereals), especially whole grains, are naturally low in fat; good sources of complex carbohydrates; and provide some key vitamins and minerals.  Great news is that a diet adequate in grains has been linked to a lower risk of heart disease, diabetes, and certain cancers.  Whole grains are grains that have not had their bran (the outer layer) and germ (innermost area) removed by milling.  Some examples of whole grains include: barley, brown rice, buckwheat, bulgur (cracked wheat), millet, oatmeal, popcorn, whole wheat bread/pasta, and wild rice.

Refined grains are milled. Milling is a process that strips out both the bran and germ so only the endosperm (the strachy part) remains. This results in grains that have a finer texture and a longer shelf life. Milling also removes many nutrients including fiber. Some examples of refined grains include: white flour, white rice, white bread, and degermed cornflower.  So many of the supermarket breads, cereals, crackers, and desserts are made with refined grains.

Sprouted grain breads take eating whole grain to a whole new level.  The grains are sprouted and ground into doughs that are high in protein and fiber; low in calories, carbohydrates, fat, sugar, and sodium; and they have no trans fast or preservatives.  Grinding the sprouted grains into dough bypasses the processing that extracts good nutrients and does not add other starches.

Then there is whole wheat bread, comprised of flour, which is derived from wheat berries. Once again, whole wheat is processed to include all three nutritious parts of the berry.  The flour for white bread is processed to only include the endosperm which strips the product of nutritional value. Whole wheat bread is much higher in fiber, vitamins, magnesium, zinc, folic acid and more.  You may see the word “enriched” on the label of some white breads – but don’t be fooled. Approximately 30 nutrients are removed in the milling process and by law, only 5 must be added back.  There’s so little fiber in white bread that you would need to eat EIGHT pieces to get the fiber in just one piece of wheat bread.

Don’t be fooled by the color or your bread either. Just because it has a caramel color, that does not mean it is wheat/whole grain. Look for the words “whole grain” as the first ingredient on the ingredient list.

Personally, my house is mostly out with the white and in with grains. We recently started experimenting with the sprouted grain breads as well. (Cybros Breads are carried at several area Pick N Save’s and Sendiks.) The kids really liked the Cybros Sprouted Seven Grain. My only complaint is that the slices are kind of thick.  Going to be making some super yummy (and nutritious) sandwiches this week – hope some of you will be doing the same.

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