On Vitamin: A primer on entire grains | Existence

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How do we identify a “whole” grain? Look for it in the list of ingredients at the top. Or, find the Whole Grains Council’s voluntary “whole grain” stamp (www.wholegrainscouncil.org) now featured on many products.

So-called “old grains” may or may not be whole grain products. The whole grain council loosely defines them as grains that have remained largely unchanged over several hundred years. However, grains don’t have to be exotic to be healthy. Common foods like brown rice, whole wheat pasta, oatmeal, popcorn, and whole wheat bread offer whole grain goodness, often at a lower price.

Modern wheat varieties have been developed through wheat breeding since the 1920s, says Dr. Brett Carver, wheat research geneticist at Oklahoma State University.

“We’re trying to produce more food – more grain – than we did 100 years ago … with less land,” says Carver. “That is the challenge we face as our population grows and our land area for crop production decreases.”

“Today’s wheat plant is stronger to withstand the winds,” he says. It can endure heat, cold and drought. And it can endure stress from illness much better than the wheat we had 100 years ago. “

The best way to make sure we are getting the full spectrum of nutrients available in nature? Eat a variety of grain foods, experts say. Each type offers a unique benefit. Now back to my cereal box …

Barbara Quinn is a registered nutritionist. Email to barbara@quinnessentialnutrition.com.