Grains are the seeds of plants. Each whole grain contains:
an endosperm, the biggest part of the whole grain, which contains carbohydrate and protein with small amounts of vitamins and nutrients,
the germ, the smallest of the kernel, which contains a large amount of B vitamins, vitamin E and minerals, and
the bran, an outer shell that provides a lot of fiber and a small amount of protein.
Before the Industrial Revolution, all grains were whole grains. With industrial roller milling, the germ and bran of grains were removed during processing, making grains easier and faster to cook, but much less nutritious.
Beside the extra protein and fiber, whole grains have many other protective substances, including
plant sterols, which help lower cholesterol levels
lignans, which are antioxidants that possess anti-cancer properties
vitamins, especially B vitamins which help with energy production in your body
minerals, especially magnesium, zinc, selenium and iron
The Health Canada’s Food Guide recommends that we should be eating at least 3 servings of whole grain a day.
Consuming whole grains have been shown to
reduce the risk of heart disease by reducing cholesterol levels, blood pressure, and blood coagulation
help regulate blood glucose in people living with diabetes
help people feel fuller, so they may eat less (if they substitute whole grains for refined grains, instead of just adding whole grains).
White bread contains refined grains, which have had some or all of the germ and bran removed, leaving mostly just the endosperm, with carbohydrates but few nutrients.
Brown-coloured bread may be either
White bread with brown coloring, e.g., molasses
or “Whole wheat” bread, essentially white bread with some amount of wheat germ added to white flour. In Canada, bread may be labeled as “whole wheat” with as little as 30% of the germ that was originally in the wheat. The glycemic index of whole wheat bread is approximately the same as white bread.
or Whole grain bread, which contains all 3 parts of the grain: endosperm, germ, and bran
Check the Ingredients list and look for the words “whole grain”.
Other possible servings of whole grain are:
1 cup of whole grain cold cereal
½ cup of whole grain hot cereal, e.g., oatmeal
½ cup of whole grain pasta
½ cup of brown rice (like white bread, white rice contains only the endosperm)
Whole kernel corn or popcorn (but watch the butter or topping)