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My weekly grocery-store trip often takes much longer than I expect. It’s not the actual shopping – I come armed with a list, and can quickly ﬁnd the foods my family needs. What keeps me lingering in the aisles is my insatiable appetite for scoping out the latest products and packaging messages aﬀecting Americans’ health.
Often my attention turns to grains, so in this week’s blog I’d like to share three great ways you can make sure you’re getting the best value on the grain foods you buy, while avoiding common traps.
Trap #1: Organic but Reﬁned
I am always befuddled to see reﬁned grain products on the shelves, proudly claiming organic status. There are two reasons to seek out organic products: you believe they’re better for your health, and/or you believe they’re better for the health of the planet. Organic reﬁned grain products satisfy neither reason, so I’m never sure why they even exist.
Reﬁning grains removes at least half to two-thirds of a wide range of nutrients that Mother Nature put into the original whole grains. And how can you save the planet eating white bread, when a bushel of wheat makes 60 whole grain bread loaves but only 42 white ones? It just doesn’t make sense for ourselves or our planet if we grow grains, then throw out the best parts. Take care of your body and the Earth, by choosing whole grains.
Trap #2: “Grains are GMO.” Not!
Maybe you’re skipping the grains aisle because you prefer not to eat genetically modiﬁed foods, and you’ve heard that wheat – and other grains – are GMO. We regularly get emails like this one often:
I recently received a health newsletter claiming that it is virtually impossible to ﬁnd any wheat product or wheat ﬂour that is not genetically modiﬁed. Can you tell me where I can ﬁnd original wheat ﬂour the way it was before genetlc modiﬁcation began?
Our simple answer to this person was, “You can ﬁnd non-GMO wheat ﬂour in any supermarket.” All of the wheat In the American food supply is non-GMO, whether it’s speciﬁcally labeled that way or not. In large part that’s because America’s farmers wage a continuous ﬁght against GMO wheat, which would destroy export markets for their products.
And it’s not just wheat. All other grains are non-GMO, with the exception of corn. If you prefer non-GMO corn, there’s an easy ﬁx: Just look for corn labeled organic. One of the criteria for using the USDA’s organic label is that foods must not contain GMO ingredients. Still confused by the many grain myths out there? Check out our Myths Busted page.
Trap #3: Everything Whole Grain is Healthy
A whole grain cookie is still a cookie. We all consciously know that, and yet it’s easy to be seduced when our subconscious says, “Oh come on, have a few more. They’re made with whole grain.”
You may ﬁnd it useful to think of whole grains on a Carb Common Sense continuum, from the healthiest eat-often choices to occasional treats like those cookies. Here’s how that continuum might look:
- Intact whole grains, like brown rice, quinoa, oats, wheatberries. These foods are closest to nature, oﬀering great taste and texture and all the original ﬁber and nutrients of the natural grain.
- Whole grain pasta. Most people don’t realize that pasta is a low-glycemic food. It’s a great choice, especially topped with lots of veggies.
- Whole grain bread. Especially look for whole grain sourdough and/or sprouted grains.
- Whole grain savory snacks. Whole grain crackers, crispbreads, popcorn and other savory foods can be great choices, if they’re low in salt and additives.
- Whole grain sweets. A whole bunch of added sugar isn’t healthy, whether it’s in a cookie or a breakfast cereal. But you already knew that.
The whole food matters – and your whole diet matters, too. Don’t focus on any one nutrient or ingredient, or even any one food. Your common sense (with perhaps a little help from our Common Ground Grocery Cart) will take you a long way in your next trip to the supermarket. (Cynthia)