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Whole Grains vs. Fiber -- What's the Difference?


Sorting out the difference between whole grains and fiber can be confusing. Let’s start with explaining why they are so important. Recent research discloses that whole grains are formidable protectors against two top killers, heart disease and diabetes. Fiber plays a role in bowel maintenance, blood sugar control, and providing a feeling of fullness which fits neatly into weight management! And really that is just the tip of the iceberg.


How much do we need of grains and whole grains each day to realize the health benefits? The American Heart Association recommends 6 servings per day of grain with at least ½ of those derived from whole grains. The 2015 Dietary Guidelines recommend 3-5 servings of whole grains per day. Let’s change that into grams. The Whole Grains Council recommends 48 grams of whole grains per day and one serving of whole grains is about 16 grams--hence the minimum of 3 servings per day. Are you confused yet? Just wait, it gets better.


It would take several pages to list all the nutritional attributes of fiber. We are told by the experts to have 25-35 grams of fiber per day and preferably not from supplements. Fiber is found in whole grains, vegetables, fruits, and dry beans. Most fruits, vegetables, and whole grains average from 2-4 grams of fiber per serving. Dry beans average closer to 8 grams per serving. Look for whole grains that have the word “whole” in the first ingredient and 10% or more fiber per serving. More is better.


Whole grains are composed of three parts: the endosperm, the bran, and the germ. Processing removes the bran (the outer layer), which contains almost all the fiber as well as B vitamins and antioxidants. Processing removes the germ (the inner nugget) or the nutrient-rich part of the grain that contains the healthful fats, vitamins, and minerals. What is left is the starchy endosperm, the basis of refined flour.


Manufacturers “enrich” their products by adding the B vitamins thiamin, niacin, riboflavin, and folic acid, as well as iron (calcium is optional), all according to strict government regulations. But enrichment does not replace the fiber or the nutrient package found in the germ according to David Jacobs, Ph.D. of the University of Minnesota.


Remember, one serving of whole grains is considered 16 grams of whole grain which is one slice of 100% whole-grain bread, or one cup of 100% whole-grain cereal, or one-half cup of whole brown rice. Try your best to have a serving of whole grains, fruit and vegetables at every meal. It is not as hard as you may think.


Have a cup of cheerios at breakfast, a sandwich on whole-wheat bread at lunch and one-half cup brown rice at dinner to fulfill the minimum whole grain requirements. Add a four-ounce serving of vegetable juice at breakfast, lettuce and tomato on the sandwich and steamed vegetables with the rice. A medium piece of fresh fruit with breakfast and as a snack a couple times per day will bring you remarkably close to the fiber requirements. Add to that one-half cup of dry beans with one meal and you will be around 25-28 grams of fiber.


Yes, it will take of bit of planning, but the health consequences will be worth it. That’s a money-back guarantee! But just remember to increase fiber intake slowly and drink plenty of water each day, to keep your bowels moving properly.

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