Why are whole grains better than refined grains?

Whole grains products such as whole wheat bread contain more fiber than refined grains (such as white bread). Fiber helps to control blood glucose by delaying the rise in blood glucose after the food is eaten. Fiber has also been associated with an improvement in insulin resistance. So even though the total carbs in whole grain products and refined grained products is about the same, there is still benefit from eating foods prepared with whole grains.

Keep in mind, too, that when it comes to fiber content, the food labels do not tell the whole story. If a slice of white bread contains 1.6 grams of fiber, it will be rounded up to 2 grams on the food label. If a slice of whole wheat bread contains 2.4 grams of fiber, it will be rounded down to 2 grams of fiber. So although there is almost a whole gram (0.8 gram) difference in fiber, the food label does not show the difference.
Heidi Skolnik, MS
Sports Medicine
Whole grains are an unrefined grain which means that their bran and germ haven't been removed by milling. Refined grains have had both their bran and germ stripped during the process of milling to give them a finer texture and extend their shelf life. The refining process not only strips the grain of their bran and germ but also removes many nutrients, including fiber. Whole grains (unrefined grains) are better sources of fiber and other important nutrients, such as selenium, potassium and magnesium. When you eat unrefined grains they are digested more slowly, leaving you full longer. When eating refined grains it may be digested quickly producing a spike in blood sugar. When your blood sugar drops it causes rebound hunger and your hunger keeps coming back and you remain hungry!
Vandana  R. Sheth
Nutrition & Dietetics
Whole grains have the entire kernel (bran, endosperm and germ) intact therefore provide more fiber, selenium, potassium, magnesium and other nutrients. Refined grains on the other hand are milled and missing parts of their kernel thereby reducing their nutritional quality.
Ximena Jimenez
Nutrition & Dietetics
Whole grains are nutrient packed with fiber, B vitamins, antioxidants, vitamin E and protein. With all these wonderful compounds, whole grains are nutrient superior than refined grains.

Fiber is the part of the plant we don't digest and help us feel full for longer periods of time making it useful for weight control. Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant that help us combat disease and stay healthy. B vitamins help us feel energetic. Those are definitely great reasons to eat more whole grains:oats, quinoa, barley and brown rice among many others.
Whole grain foods include all parts of the grain kernel (the bran, the germ, the exosperm, and the endosperm). Whole grains and other unprocessed starches are far better for your heart than refined foods, because they provide more of the following:
  • Dietary fiber. Studies have linked high-fiber diets to reduced blood cholesterol.
  • Complex carbohydrates. Compared to the carbohydrates provided by white bread, white rice, and other processed foods, whole grains give you longer-lasting energy, more fiber, and more nutrients.
  • Vitamins and minerals. Whole grains are rich in heart-healthy nutrients like the B vitamins, vitamin E, and minerals like magnesium, copper, selenium, and zinc.
Whole wheat, brown rice, and oats are just a few examples of whole grains. "Unprocessed starches" also include beans and vegetables like potatoes, sweet potatoes, squash, and corn -- simply prepared with little or no fat. Eaten with the skin on, these starchy vegetables provide even more fiber and other nutrients.

Refined (or processed) grains are milled differently from whole grains. The milling process removes the bran and often the germ from the grain -- stripping away fiber as well as many other important nutrients. And although some nutrients are added back in when refined grain is fortified, not all of them are replaced. That's why refined foods like white bread, white pasta, or white rice are less-nutritious choices. They are comparatively low in fiber and nutrition, and provide only short-lived energy.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.