Physicians, nutritionists and physical fitness trainers tend to agree - a diet rich in whole grain foods not only promotes fitness but overall good health.
But to bulk up on whole grains requires a little bit of knowledge and attention to detail while shopping.
Whole grain refers to the fact that all of the grain is ground up and used in the food. In the manufacturing process, grains are often "refined," removing their outer layers and using only the starchy parts.
But many of the grain's nutrients are in the outer shells while the starchy interior contains significantly less of what's good for you. There's a big difference between whole wheat and white bread.
Examples of whole grain wheat products include 100 percent whole wheat bread, pasta, tortilla, and crackers. But most products on the grocery shelf aren't made with whole wheat, so you have to read labels carefully.
Wheat is just one of the whole grain foods. Other examples include rice, oats, cornmeal, barley. Bread, pasta, oatmeal, breakfast cereals, tortillas, and grits are examples of products made with these grains.Â
Whole grains can also be healthy snacks. Popcorn, a whole grain, can beÂ a healthy snack, depending on its preparation. Cooked in oil and coated with butter and salt, it can be as unhealthy as many other treats. But in its purest form, and air popped, it can be extremely healthy, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
For your health
Sheldon G. Sheps, M.D. Mayo Clinic hypertension specialist, says a diet rich in whole grain foods might also be good for your blood pressure.
"Some research suggests that eating more whole-grain foods on a regular basis can help reduce your chance of developing high blood pressure," Sheps writes on the Mayo Clinic website. "Whole-grain foods are a rich source of healthy nutrients, including fiber, potassium, magnesium and folate. Eating more whole-grain foods offers many health benefits that can work together to help reduce your risk of high blood pressure by aiding in weight control, increasing your intake of potassium, and decreasing your risk of insulin resistance."
Whole grain foods promote weight control because calorie-for-calorie, they make you feel more full than food made with refined grains.
Read labels carefully
When shopping for whole grain products, you have to know what to look for on the label. Read the ingredients list and choose products that name a whole grainÂ ingredient first on the list. Look for "whole wheat," "brown rice," "bulgur," "buckwheat," "oatmeal," "whole-grain cornmeal," "whole oats," "whole rye," or "wild rice."
The color of a food is not an indication that it is a whole-grain food. Foods labeled as "multi-grain," "stone-ground," "100% wheat," "cracked wheat," "seven-grain," or "bran" are usually not 100% whole-grain products, and may not contain any whole grain.