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It’s clear that adding more whole grains to your diet is a good decision for your health. Multiple studies have been done touting the health beneﬁts of regularly consuming whole grains. But it can sometimes be confusing trying to ﬁgure out where to get your whole grains. Are some better than others? There are countless products in the store that make whole grain claims – but are all of these products as healthy as you think they are? I’m going to break it all down for you and make your next trip to the market easier, by giving you some useful pointers.
First, let’s check out three diﬀerent claims you will often see on products. The ﬁrst popular claim is “Made with Whole Grains.” What this claim really means is that the product contains some whole grains, but is likely not 100% whole grain. (In fact, we often see this claim on products that contain so little whole grain that they don’t qualify for the Whole Grain Stamp.) Read the label to see exactly what grain ingredients are in the product.
Another term you’ll see frequently is “Multigrain.” You’ll see this most often on bread products, but it can also be found on any products that contain grains. This term is especially confusing and the most commonly misinterpreted. The term “multigrain” simply means, “made from more than one kind of grain.” In other words, those grains can be either whole or reﬁned, or a mix of both, as long as there is more than one. Multigrain does not necessarily mean whole grain, so it is essential that you read the ingredient list to check what you’re getting.
A third ambiguous term you’ll see is “Stoneground.” Stoneground refers to the way the miller ground the grains to make ﬂour – with stone wheels. However, this does not guarantee that the resulting ﬂour is whole grain. While stone grinding originally creates whole grain ﬂour, that product may then be passed through additional processes which remove the bran and germ, ultimately resulting in a reﬁned ﬂour product. To be sure you’re getting whole grain, make sure the word “whole” precedes whatever grain is being listed.
We can’t emphasize reading the ingredient list enough. Items like popcorn, granola bars, and instant oatmeal can be incredibly misleading as “healthy, whole grain” options when in fact the ﬁrst ingredient on the list is sugar (or should be). To complicate the situation even further, companies can break up the types of sugar they use to make it appear to have less. One all too familiar example is kettle popcorn. A bag of popcorn that boasts 10g of whole grain per serving and lists popcorn as the ﬁrst ingredient could have 18g of sugar in that same serving! Even though ingredients must be listed in descending order, items like “brown sugar” and “corn syrup” can appear separately in the ingredient list making it easy to lose sight of the big picture. Don’t be fooled! Always check the Nutrition Facts Panel too, where you’ll see what all those diﬀerent sugars add up to.
With all of these tricks and ploys to stay on top of, it can sometimes feel like a test just to make a simple stop at the grocery store. To help you tackle the task, always start by looking for the Whole Grain Stamp. A product bearing a Basic Stamp contains at least 8g of whole grain per serving, but may also contain reﬁned grains. Even if a product displays a large amount of whole grain on the Stamp it will use the Basic Stamp if it also contains extra bran, germ, or reﬁned ﬂour. The 100% Stamp is for products where all the grain ingredients are whole, and that contain a minimum of 16g of whole grain per serving. The Stamp makes it easy for shoppers to narrow down good choices – but remember, the Stamp only certiﬁes the whole grain content. You’ll still want to check the Nutrition Facts Panel to be sure that levels of sugar, sodium or other ingredients meet your standards.
Do you look for the Whole Grain Stamp when considering what you buy? We’d love to hear about your experience using it!