Column: Is it really whole grain?

Have you ever wondered how to tell if breads, cereals or pastas are really whole grain items, and does it really matter?

Selecting whole grains instead of refined grains offers more fiber and nutrients. Consuming refined grains causes us to miss out on Vitamin E, B6, magnesium, zinc, potassium, copper and protein. In the refining process, phytochemicals are lost. Phytochemicals play a role in protecting the body from diseases.

If you are looking for a whole-wheat product, don't bother referring to the name or claims of an item. Knowing what to look for can make it easy to ensure that a nutritious whole grain product is selected.

Check out the ingredient list. The first term should say "whole wheat" or "whole grain." If you see the terms "enriched wheat, unbromated wheat, unbleached wheat or stone ground wheat," then the product is not a whole grain item; it is refined.

If you see the term "bran," this refers to the fiber-rich part of grain. It would be a good source of fiber but lacks the phytochemicals and nutrients a whole-wheat product contains. When it comes to oat products, you don't have to worry about looking for the word "whole." Look for the terms "oats," "rolled oats," "whole rolled oats," or "oatmeal" as the first ingredient.

Other foods that are whole grains that don't have the word "whole" on the ingredients list include brown rice and corn.

Barley, kasha, bulgar, millet and quinoa are all nutritious whole grain alternative to rice and potatoes.

If you would like to know what phytochemicals are, please feel free to call me at 753-5066 or e-mail me at dietcenteraz@yahoo.com, or stop by Diet Center at 1848 Hope Ave.