Blissful Belle

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Whole vs. Refined: the Great Grain Debate


      Belles are constantly searching for ways to modify their diets and create better eating habits that will benefit them in the long run. Bread seems to be one of those things that people on “diets” seem to stay away from. But the kind of bread you eat can have a serious effect on your body. The answers to the debate between whole grain and refined bread is an important one for your mood and your body.

The good news

All grains are rich in complex carbohydrates, which are nutrients that provide your brain and body with glucose, the main energy source. Grains can also be a good source of B vitamins including folate, thiamin and niacin. They tend to pack in minerals such as iron and magnesium, which may help lower blood pressure. According to the Whole Grains Council, whole grain foods contain all of the essential parts and natural nutrients of the entire grain seed including the bran, the germ, and the endosperm.

Whole Grain Perks
Whole grains are an important source of dietary fiber and other nutrients. Healthy diets rich in dietary fiber have been shown to have a number of beneficial effects, including decreasing the risk of coronary heart disease and promoting regular bowel movement. Some examples of whole grain products include:

  1. Whole wheat bread

  2. Whole wheat cereal

  3. Whole wheat rice

  4. Whole wheat spaghetti

But, wait a minute. Haven’t we all heard that “carbs” are bad and that we should not be eating them? Well Belles, that’s not entirely true. Foods containing carbohydrates are an essential part of a healthy diet. In addition to whole grains, healthy foods that provide carbohydrates, as well as many other nutrients, are fruits, vegetables, and fat-free and low-fat milk products. Unfortunately, many of us don’t always choose the best carbohydrate foods. This is when it becomes unhealthy. There are some foods that contain bad carbohydrates. These are the foods that contain added sugars or added fats. We need to watch out for: cakes, cookies, crackers, candy, and doughnuts, to name a few.

What is a refined grain?

Refined grains are produced when whole grains are made into flour to create a refined texture. Once they are refined, the bran and germ are removed leaving only the
endosperm, which contains some protein, vitamins and minerals. Although several B vitamins and iron are added back to the grain to create an “enriched grain,” refined grains often have less fiber and fewer nutrients than whole grains (especially if they’re high in solid fats and added sugars). A lot of the important minerals that whole grains contain are lost during the refinement process. They’re also digested and absorbed more quickly and tend to be less filling than whole grains.


Balancing Grain Intake

Unfortunately, we don’t consume enough whole grains, and overdo refined grains. Mostly, because of the taste, but also because we do not always have the option. Many restaurants have yet to catch on the whole grain option and sometimes leave us with no other choice. Current Dietary Guidelines for Americans include both whole and refined grains, but encourage people to make at least half of our grains whole grains, and reduce our intake of refined grains.

Here are 5 tips to help you attain the many benefits grains have to offer without exceeding your calorie limit.

  • Look for a whole grain listed first on a food product’s ingredients list. Some examples: ‘whole wheat,’ ‘oats,’ ‘wheat berries,’ ‘brown rice,’ and ‘whole grain.’
  • If you see a Whole Grain Stamp, that means the product has 8 to 16 grams of whole grains per ounce-equivalent. (16 grams counts as a 1 ounce-equivalent of whole grains.)
  • Choose whole wheat pasta in different shapes and sizes more often than white pasta, and top with any combination of beans, tomato sauce lightly sautéed vegetables, or some feta cheese.
  • If the only grains you consume are whole grain, make sure they’re fortified with folic acid.
  •  Just because a food is made with whole grains doesn’t mean it’s high in fiber. When buying breads, cereals, and crackers, read Nutrition Facts Panels and look for at least 3 grams of fiber per serving (per 100 to 120 calorie portion). Try to choose whole grain products made with little or no added sugar.


Be smart about your grain selection, and don’t be afraid to glance at the labels. Both grains are great for a healthy diet, but be sure to moderate your portions according to your daily lifestyle and diet.



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