I am confused about whole grains. Some information tells me to eat lots of whole grains, but others say it is fiber that is important in a healthy diet. Which is it?
This is a good question. I recently bought a loaf of bread that advertised "20 g of whole grains per serving" and "a good source of fiber." Keep in mind that this is advertising. According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), a whole grain must contain all the components of a grain kernel: the bran, germ, and endosperm.
Whole grains include but are not limited to: whole wheat, barley, rye, oatmeal, popcorn, brown rice and wild rice. These foods are rich in nutrients, including B vitamins, and fiber. Refined grains, such as white bread and white rice, do not include all of the grain kernel. In the refinement of these grains, nutrients and fiber are removed. Nutrients are added back in the enrichment process, but fiber is not.
In order to prevent nutrient deficiencies, enrichment of refined grains is required in the United States. Centuries ago, it was discovered that people in the Far East, who relied on white rice for 80% of their energy intake, developed a neurological disorder known as beriberi, which literally means I can't, I can't. This disorder left many paralyzed, weak, and with mental confusion. After extensive research, it was discovered that beriberi was due to a lack of thiamin, a B vitamin, that was absent in white rice due to the refinement process.
Remember, the focus is on fiber, not just whole grains. While whole grains are your best choice in this food group, many plant products are rich in fiber and nutrition, including nuts, seeds, fruits, and vegetables. Set your goal of fiber intake to at least 20 grams per day. If you're not used to eating a high fiber diet, start with 10 grams a day and work your way up to 20- 30 grams. Drink plenty of water and . . . be healthy!
Sincerely, Dear Dietitian