Well Being

Nutrition Reminder: Whole Grains Aren’t Always What They Seem

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A recent trip to the grocery store reminded me: Whole grain products aren't always what they seem. At least not in the supermarket aisle, where a stupid amount of “whole grain” foods contain as little as 40% whole grain.

At first glance, the pasta shelves these days are kind of heartening:—look at all the whole grain spaghettis, rigatonis and elbow macaroni!—but closer inspection reveals that most of these products are only partially whole grain. Same thing for the conventional cereal, cracker, bread and tortilla sections: Lots of whole grain and multi-grain labeling, very few 100% whole grain products.

So how can you tell? If a product is made from 100% whole grains, it will usually say so pretty prominently. Partially whole grain products will generally say ‘whole grain' in big letters and something like “contains 53% whole grain” in smaller letters. They may also say “made with whole grain,” “whole wheat” or “multi-grain.”

If you're unsure, check the ingredient list: If the first ingredient is “whole wheat flour,” that means the product is made with flour made from whole grains of wheat that haven't been enriched or refined. If it simply says “flour” or “wheat flour,” you're looking at an alias for white flour.

[Don't trust the foods at Whole Foods either, p.s.]

White flour, and products made from it, are the kind of carbs we generally think of as “bad”—the ones that cause your blood sugar to spike and provide little that's beneficial nutritionally. According to Jim Healthy at Shine!, eating white bread and foods baked from it has the same effect on your blood sugar as eating straight table sugar.

“Both break down into glucose as soon as they are digested, which requires extra insulin to get them out of your bloodstream.

Consuming too many refined carbohydrates is the number one cause of weight gain and Type 2 diabetes. And with a whopping 30% of the US population predicted to develop diabetes very soon, everyone should take steps to protect themselves.”

Whole grain foods digest more slowly that refined, white flour foods, because they contain more natural fiber. Fiber slows the body's conversion of carbohydrates into glucose, so your blood sugar remains stable.