Grains, especially whole grains, are an essential part of a healthy diet. All types of grains are good sources of complex carbohydrates and some key vitamins and minerals. Grains are naturally low in fat. All of this makes grains a healthy option. Better yet, they’ve been linked to a lower risk of heart disease, diabetes, certain cancers and other health problems.
Types of Grains
Also called cereals, grains and whole grains are the seeds of grasses cultivated for food. Grains and whole grains come in many shapes and sizes, from large kernels of popcorn to small quinoa seeds.
Whole grains – these are unrefined grains that haven’t had their bran and germ removed by milling. Whole grains are better sources of fiber and other important nutrients, such as selenium, potassium and magnesium. Whole grains are either single foods, such as brown rice and popcorn, or ingredients in products, such as buckwheat in pancake or whole wheat bread.
Refined grains – are milled, a process that strips out both the bran and germ to give them a finer texture and extend their shelf life. The refining process also removes many nutrients, including fiber. Refined grains include white flour, white rice, white bread, and de-germed cornflower. Many breads, cereals, crackers, deserts and pastries are made with refined grains too.
Enriched grains – enriched means that some of the nutrients lost during processing are added back in. Some enriched grains are grains that have lost B vitamins but not their natural fiber. Fortifying means adding in nutrients that doesn’t occur naturally in the food. Most refined grains are enriched, and many enriched grains also are fortified with other vitamins and minerals, such as folic acid and iron.