Whole grains offer a “complete package” of health benefits, whereas refined grains have parts of the grain removed during the refining process. In their natural state, whole grains are the entire seed of a plant. This seed (also known as a ‘kernel’) contains three parts – the bran, the germ, and the endosperm.
- The bran is the multi-layered outer skin of the kernel. It contains antioxidants, high amounts of vitamin B, and fiber.
- The germ is the embryo that can sprout into a new plant if not harvested. It contains many B vitamins, some protein, minerals, and healthy fats.
- The endosperm serves as the germ’s food supply and is the largest part of the kernel. The endosperm consists mainly of starchy carbohydrates, proteins, and some vitamins and minerals.
Eating whole grains can reduce stroke and heart disease risks, lessens inflammation, maintains steady blood sugar levels, lowers cholesterol, and improves digestive health. In addition, studies show that incorporating whole grains may lower the risk of many chronic diseases. While benefits are the greatest with at least three daily servings, some studies point to reduced risks from as little as one serving per day. The current recommendation is to have at least 50% of your grain intake be whole grains. All in all, every whole grain in your diet helps!