Why are whole grains healthier than processed grains?

Ms. Ashley Koff, RD
Nutrition & Dietetics
A whole grain is a whole grain -- it's not that difficult -- it's the grain with its parts all attached -- bran, endosperm and germ. What this means is the grain looks like, well, a grain -- rices, quinoa, oats, wheatberries, etc. -- these whole grains are not whole if they've been ground, refined and then nutrients added back, puffed, flaked, or flattened.

Not ground? What about whole grain flours in pastas, cereals etc? If we are technical, these are not whole grains. When we grind them up into flour (even if we don't remove any nutrients) we break down their fiber outside of the body thus cheat an important nutrition value of whole grains. When we make puffs (rice cakes, cereals etc) we open up grains, creating a higher surface area for digestive enzymes to act on which means that the glycemic load (how the food affects our blood sugar levels) is greatly increased, a negative for our bodies in terms of getting energy more quickly than the body can utilize it all -- resulting in fat storage and potential for elevated blood sugar levels/insulin resistance, and the first steps to diabetes.

Does this mean products from these semi-processed whole grains are all bad? No, it just means that they are less nutrient dense, and less healthy than the actual whole grain and they should not be allowed to tout the benefits of whole grains in the media or on packaging but rather should say made with whole grain flour, if indeed they originated from true whole grain flour vs. refined with some nutrients added back.
Heidi Skolnik, MS
Sports Medicine

Hearty whole-grain foods contain nutrients that have been stripped from processed grains, says sports nutritionist and Dr. Oz Show guest Heidi Skolnik. In this video, she explains how they can help you lose weight.

Vandana  R. Sheth
Nutrition & Dietetics

Whole grains contain the entire grain kernel (bran, germ and endosperm) therefore maximizing nutritional benefits. Processed grains have a finer texture, longer shelf life but have their bran and germ removed during processing. Processed grains will have less fiber, iron, vitamins, and minerals.

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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.