We are two months in to the year 2011 and I’m already seeing red. Truthfully, it happens this time every year.
The month of February conjures up images of hearts. Our thoughts are focused on those we most cherish around Valentine’s Day. The American Heart Association reminds us that February is Heart Awareness Month. We “Go Red for Women” to educate the public about heart disease in women.
So … I have selected whole grains as the featured food for February as it is considered a heart-healthy food. The newly released Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010 states, “A moderate body of evidence from large prospective cohort studies shows that whole grain intake, which includes cereal fiber, protects against cardiovascular disease.”
It is recommended that at least 50 percent of the grains consumed should be whole grains.
The “Whole” Story: What Is a Whole Grain?
Grains are the edible kernels or seeds of plants. Common examples of grains are rice and wheat. The kernel has four parts: there is an outer husk which is not edible (not shown in picture), beneath the husk is the bran layer. This is a fibrous covering and is the major contributor to the fiber content of a grain. The next layer and largest in size is the endosperm. This is the starchy center comprised of carbohydrate and protein. The fourth part is the germ, which is rich in vitamins and minerals. The germ gives rise to new growth of the plant.
Refined or Unrefined, That Is the Question!
Whole (unrefined) grains are whole because they retain the bran and germ layers. Refined grains are those that have the bran and germ layers removed during the milling process. The refined grains have a finer texture but lose the bran (fiber), iron, and B vitamins in the process.
Refined grains may be enriched (vitamins and minerals added back) after milling, but they still lack the fiber, and have less vitamin B6, magnesium, and zinc than whole grains.
It is very important, then, that you look at the packaging of cereals, breads, and pasta for the words 100 percent whole grains. When scanning the ingredient list, whole wheat flour for example, should be the only flour or the first flour listed.
By Dr. Elaine Rancatore