The Secret Guide to Whole Grains

By: Blake Powers on Jul 6, 2016

The 2015 - 2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend an increase intake of vitamin D, potassium, and fiber in the diet. The guidelines also encourage a shift in our diets such that at least half of grains consumed should be whole grain. An easy way to consume more vitamin D, potassium, and fiber is through the consumption of whole grains. Whole grains can be fortified with a variety of of vitamins, minerals, and fiber to shape the American diet closer to the guidelines (1).Whole grains naturally contain a variety of essential nutrients. Some of the most common vitamin and minerals in whole grains are iron, magnesium, phosphorus, zinc, copper, manganese, potassium, selenium, and B vitamins. Protein and fiber are also an essential component of whole grains (2).


Fortifying and enriching grain products increases the nutritional quality of the food supply.The process of enriching flour is used to restore B vitamins and iron to the flour after being processed. When fortification is used, the nutrients are often added at a higher level than its prior state. Some innovating whole grain products include oat products fortified with vitamin E and omega-3 fatty acids. This fortification and enrichment process is used in cereals, breads, rice, and other grain based products (3).


Do you ever go to the grocery store only to get confused with the difference between whole grain, Whole Grain breadwhole wheat, and multigrain breads? Which is the best for health? And how are these different from white bread? According to the Whole Grains Council, whole grains contain all the parts and naturally occurring nutrients of the whole grain seed. There are 3 parts to a grain kernel, the bran, endosperm, and germ. A food that is whole grain must contain all 3 of these parts before and after processing. Examples of whole grains are corn, oats, quinoa, rice, rye, and wheat.  Whole wheat is a type of whole grain. This means that the food is constructed from the entire wheat kernel. It contains all 3 parts of a wheat grain kernel of the endosperm, bran, and germ (2). Multigrain is exactly what it sounds like. It means that the product is made with many types of grains. However, just because the products contain different grains does not automatically mean that eating whole grains are “healthy.” These products can still be quite low in nutritional quality. Many times in a multigrain product, the bran and the germ are removed, and only the endosperm remains. This means that fibers, vitamins, and minerals are removed (4). White bread and grain products do not contain as much fiber, vitamins, and minerals than whole grain products. This is because white bread only consists of the endosperm. So it will not contain the additional vitamins, nutrients, and fiber like the whole grain products contain.

A trick when looking for healthy grain products is to always look for the word “whole” on the nutrition facts label, whether it is whole grain or whole wheat. Do not be fooled into thinking that a product is healthful because it contains the word “multigrain.”


The Dietary Guidelines encourage us to get at least half of the servings of grains to be whole grains. This is equivalent to about 3-5 servings of whole grains per day.


Studies have shown that eating 3 or more servings of whole grains per day can decrease the risk of heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and obesity. The great thing about eating whole grains is that it helps us get our needed fiber, vitamins, and minerals at a low cost. (2).


Here are some easy ways to start eating whole grains!

  • Look for cereals, muffins, and cookies that contain have “whole grain” printed on the label.
  • Buy whole grain pasta
  • Stir in some rolled oats into your yogurt.


  1. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and U.S. Department of Agriculture. 2015–2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. 8th Edition. December 2015. Available at
  1. The Whole Grains Council. (n.d.). Retrieved June 17, 2016, from
  1. “Whole Grains Fact Sheet.”, October 14, 2009.
  1. Smith, Monica. “Whole Grain vs. Multigrain vs. Whole Wheat.” MSU Extension, January 1, 2013.