Many diets advocate reducing or even eliminating carbohydrates of any kind, a trend that likely started because Americans tend to overeat refined carbs (think white bread, rice, and pasta). What those diets don’t take into consideration, however, is that the carbohydrate category also includes whole grains, which provide essential nutrients and act as the foundation of a healthy diet.
Whole grains are packed with antioxidants, B vitamins, and ﬁber, and because there are so many different kinds, from amaranth to wild rice, they’re also incredibly versatile. This guide will tell you what you need to know about whole grains, including how to get more into your diet.
What Are Whole Grains?
Whole grains have three parts: the bran (the hard outer shell and source of fiber), endosperm (the starchy carbohydrate middle layer), and the germ (nutrient-packed core), according to the Whole Grains Council. The outer and innermost layers of a whole grain contain key nutrients. The bran is rich in antioxidants, B vitamins, and fiber; the germ, which is the “embryo” of the grain, contains protein and healthy fats.
When grains are refined, which is usually done to make products last longer or have a more appealing texture or flavor, many of those nutrients are stripped away. Refined grains include things like white flour and rice.
Common whole grains include whole-wheat flour, wheat berry, bulgur, oatmeal, whole-grain cornmeal, quinoa, and brown rice. Because there are so many different types of whole grains, it can be challenging to keep track of how many servings you are eating or know how much you “should” be eating. The exact serving size recommendation for whole grains depends on the individual, says Clara Nosek, a registered dietitian-nutritionist based in California. “The general recommendation for whole grains is to ensure at least half the grains you eat are whole grains,” she says. “As a general recommendation, a cupped hand or fist-size serving is a great place to start.”
The USDA recommends between 6 and 10 ounces (oz) of grains per day for adults, with at least 3 to 5 oz being whole grains. What that looks like serving-size-wise varies. For bread,…