Many grain products have jumped on the whole-grain bandwagon. Most are junk in disguise. How can you tell if a produce really is a good source of whole grain? The good news is that a recent study from Harvard School of Public Health has clarified this issue. In this study, more than 500 products, including breads, bagels, cereals, crackers, granola bars, chips, and more were critiqued based on five recommended whole grain criteria, including: 1. the Whole Grain Stamp, 2. whole grain as a first ingredient, 3. whole grain as a first ingredient without sugar, 4. the word “whole” before any grain in the ingredients, and 5. the content of total carbohydrate to fiber of less than or equal to 10:1. Total calories, trans fat, sugars, and sodium also were taken into account. Results showed that the least helpful criteria was the Whole Grain Stamp. These foods had higher calories and sugar. The American Heart Association’s 10:1 ratio showed healthier foods, with less sugar, salt, and trans fat. (For example, a slice of bread that had 20 grams of carbohydrates and 2 grams of fiber would have a ratio of 10:1.) Foods that listed whole grain first on the ingredient list and had no added sugars were almost as healthy as the ones using the 10:1 ratio.
With this information in hand, do the math when checking food labels. Compare the total carbs with the amount of fiber in a serving and look for a ratio of 10 grams of carbs for every 1 gram of fiber. Second, check the ingredient list and only purchase grain foods that have whole grain as the first ingredient and no added sugars. My favorite bread these days is Dave’s Killer Bread, which is making its way onto store shelves across the country. If it’s not yet available in your area, you can purchase via this link: Dave’s Killer Bread. Brown rice, and old fashioned oats also meet this criteria.
Mozaffarian R, Lee R, Kennedy M, et al: Identifying whole grain foods. Public Health Nutrition 2013; January 4: 1-10.