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A whole new way to measure whole grains

STILLWATER, Okla. – Whole grains are good for you. Nobody disputes this fact, and many of us are doing the best we can to follow federal recommendations to make half our grains whole grains. But, for some, the difference between trying to get in more whole grain goodness and actually doing it is the ability to spot the real deal on the grocery shelves.

“It can definitely be confusing. There are so many products out there claiming to be whole grain, and while they may be, there also might be even better options with more nutritional value,” said Janice Hermann, Oklahoma State University Cooperative Extension nutrition specialist.

One of the newest formulas for determining the most healthful whole grain foods also is one of the easiest to apply.

When sorting through whole grain foods, look for products with a 10-1 ratio of carbohydrates to fiber, meaning for every 10 grams of carbohydrate, there should be at least one gram of fiber per serving.

Just divide the number of carbohydrate grams by 10, and if the number of grams of fiber is as large or larger than the answer then the food is whole grain. Both the carbohydrates and the fiber can be found on the nutrition label.

“Even if you have trouble doing math in your head, most phones these days have a calculator function, so it should be pretty easy to check products as you’re shopping,” Hermann said.

The quick and simple calculation comes from a study done by Harvard School of Public Health researchers, who reviewed 545 grain products and added up the whole grains, carbohydrates, fiber, added sugar, trans fat, sodium and calories for each item.

The researchers found foods with the 10-1 ratio generally had less sugar, sodium and trans fats compared to items that did not meet the threshold. The study appeared online in the journal “Public Health Nutrition.”

Another way of determining the most healthful whole grains is to use the Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommendation of picking products with the word “whole” listed before any grain in the ingredients list. More specifically, it is best to select items with a whole grain at the top of the ingredient list or items with a whole grain listed first and no added sugars.

You also can look for the Whole Grain Stamp, which is promoted by the Whole Grains Council. Companies can add the stamp to products with at least 8 grams of whole grains per serving.

Hermann said it does not matter what method you choose, the goal is to incorporate whole grains into your diet. 

“Whole grains are so important to good health because they provide fiber, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants,” she said. “Whole grains also can help cut your risk of heart disease, diabetes and other chronic conditions.”

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Oklahoma State University, U.S. Department of Agriculture, State and Local Governments Cooperating: The Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service offers its programs to all eligible persons regardless of race, color, national origin, religion, gender, age, disability, or status as a veteran, and is an equal opportunity employer. 

REPORTER/MEDIA CONTACT:
Leilana McKindra
Communications Specialist
Agricultural Communications Services
140 Agriculture North
Oklahoma State University
Stillwater, OK 74078
Phone: 405-744-6792
Fax: 405-744-5739
Email: leilana.mckindra@okstate.edu