Jan 15, 2010

How Can I Tell if a Product is REALLY Whole Grain?

Figuring out whether your bread, pasta, cereal, etc is really whole grain can be tough, because there are so many terms & words used on packaging to make you think a product is healthy, even if it's not.  Here are some of the most common terms defined, to help you make an informed decision about what products to buy:
100% Whole Grain
  • No refined grains or refined flour was used
  • Means product has fiber, which helps lower cholesterol and slows digestion so that you stay full for longer, and end up eating less.
  • If something is 100% whole grain, it should have at least 3 grams of fiber per 100 calories.
  • Note: there may be other grains used in addition to wheat, like oats, oat bran, spelt, flax, rye, or barley flour.  These are all "whole grains." 
  • This is a good sign. Buy products that say this.
100% Whole Wheat
  • Made with only whole wheat flour, no refined flours
  • If you read the ingredients list, you should see that the ONLY flours listed are stone-ground whole wheat, 100% whole wheat, or whole wheat.
  • When buying bread, look for "100% whole wheat" on the label

  • This means nothing, because ALL bread (except gluten-free) is wheat bread.  What you want is whole wheat. 
  • If you read the ingredients list and see "enriched wheat flour," or "unbleached wheat flour," or "fortified wheat flour" -- don't be fooled, these are not whole grains!
High Fiber
  • Has at least 5 grams of fiber and less than 3 grams of fat per serving
  • Good because fiber helps fill you up, and keep you fuller for longer

Good Source of Fiber
  • Has 2.5-4.9 grams of fiber per serving
  • May or may not be 100% whole grain, but if the ingredients are all whole grains, then it is
More Fiber or Added Fiber
  • Has at least 2.5 grams more fiber per serving than the regular version of the food
  • Watch out! -- many products that have tons of fiber (like 10-25 grams/serving) have all sorts of unnatural additives to make them higher in fiber -- and these added fibers do not have the same beneficial effects on health as naturally occurring fiber -- so just be aware of this if you choose to buy these products.
  • Good clues that a product is high in synthetic fiber (not the naturally-occurring kind):
    • If the product is white, like a "country white bread" but has fiber -- clearly the product is not whole grain because it's white & refined, so you know the fiber is from an additive, not from the grain itself
    • If the product is not the type of food that would normally have fiber (a grain, fruit, or vegetable) -- like a Pop Tart, candy, beverage, or yogurt.
Made with Whole Grains
  • There might be whole grains in the product, but the product is not 100% whole grain
  • This is a company's try at getting you to believe their product is completely whole grain, even though it's not
Let me know if you have other specific questions about fiber or whole grains and I'd be happy to answer! 
* picture from www.applepiepatispate.com website

    1 comment:

    Laila said...

    Hi Meels,
    Any tips on figuring out whether or not one is gluten intolerant (obviously not me because I love bread!)? Is there s systematic approach to detecting a food intolerance?