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Are Half of Your Grains Whole Grains?
Jillian Schoening

Whole grains, especially ancient grains, are making a comeback. Stay on top of this trend to identify and incorporate whole grains in your meals.

So, what are whole grains and where can you find them?

Whole grains contain all three original parts, the bran, germ, and endosperm. Unlike whole grains, “refined grains” like white rice are missing one or more of these three important components. Since refining a grain removes key nutrients, governments have recommended that some nutrients are added back into the refined grain thereby “enriching” them. However, even enriched grains do not contain all of the nutrients (or the same quantity of nutrients) that were originally in the grain. If you choose to eat refined grains, choose enriched grains. In order to obtain all of the nutrients in their original quantities, you are better off eating whole grains.

Whole grains are packed with protein, fiber, and other micronutrients. To highlight a few whole grains, teff has twice the iron as other grains and three times the calcium content, and amaranth and quinoa contain all nine essential amino acids.

Plus, whole grains are rich in antioxidants, for example:

  • Corn has more antioxidants than any grain or vegetable
  • Kaniwa contains high amounts of the antioxidant quercetin
  • Oats are filled with anti-inflammatory and antioxidant avenanthramides
  • Buckwheat is a rich source of the antioxidant, rutin, which may improve circulation and cardiovascular health

The fiber found in whole grains promotes satiety, normalizes bowel movements, and may lower cholesterol. Beta-glucan, a fiber in oats and barley, is particularly effective in lowering cholesterol.

Due to the health benefits of whole grains, the dietary guidelines recommend making at least ½ of the grains you eat whole grains. If you need 2,000 calories/day, aim to consume 48 grams of whole grains each day.

Tips for Identifying Whole Grains:

  • Check the 1st ingredient on the label and make sure it says “whole” before it lists the grain or look for these whole grains:

o Amaranth
o Whole, hulled or hull-less barley
o Buckwheat
o Bulgur
o Whole corn (including popcorn!)
o Einkorn
o Whole farro
o Freekah
o Whole kamut
o Kaniwa or canihua
o Millet
o Oats
o Quinoa
o Brown, black, red, and wild rice
o Whole rye or rye berries
o Sorghum
o Whole spelt
o Teff
o Triticale
o Whole wheat

  • Look for the whole grain stamp. As shown below, there are three varieties of the whole grain stamp.

o The 100% stamp means that all of the grain ingredients are whole grains. In order for a product to display the 100% stamp, it also must contain at least 16 grams of whole grains per serving.
o The 50%+ stamp means that at least half of the grain ingredients are whole grains. In order for a product to display the 50%+ stamp, it also must contain at least 8 grams of whole grains per serving.
o The basic stamp is displayed on products that contain at least 8 grams of whole grains per serving, however, it can contain more refined grains than whole grains.

Start your day by adding delicious nutrient-packed whole grains to your morning routine. Try incorporating whole grain toast, whole grain granola, oatmeal, sorghum cereal, or quinoa into your breakfast.

Then check out some of the whole grains that Carolina Meadows offers:

  • Quinoa, kamut, amaranth, brown rice, wild rice, and black lentils in their ancient grain dish
  • Brown rice in their brown rice pilaf
  • Ancient grains on the salad bar
  • 100% whole wheat bread at the sandwich station
  • Multi-grain bread packed with whole wheat flour, sunflower seeds, flaxseed, rye chops, sesame seeds, and rolled oats
  • Other whole grains used at Carolina Meadows include whole durum wheat, whole farro, bulgur, wheat berries, whole wheat couscous, whole grain croutons, and black rice

Click here for more information on whole grains, sources, and helpful recipes!

– Jillian Schoening, MS, RD, LDN

If you are interested in learning more about adding whole grains to your daily routine or one-on-one counseling, please contact my office at 919-370-7187 or email me at 

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