Whole Grains Are Good for Us...But What are They?

Reporter: Shannon Samson

Whole grains have three parts: bran, germ and endosperm. If you're eating bleached pasta or bread, you're eating just the starchy endosperm, but no bran and germ and therefore no fiber.

Examples of whole grain foods are brown rice, oatmeal and products made with whole wheat. At the Great Harvest Bread Company, much of what you see up front got its start in the back of the store, in the mill room.

Owner Mark Stieler says, "We take the wheat berry. This is our stone mill. We have two stones that go around and around like that real close together and out comes 100% whole wheat flour."

Great Harvest has offered whole grain products for 35 years and now, other companies are following suit. Instead of just making some of its cereals with whole grains, General Mills just announced all of its cereals will contain them. Registered Dietitian Marita Cohen says, "The fact that they're going to whole grains, I think that's really good."

Cohen says the benefits are overwhelming. Whole grains ward off constipation, lower the risk of heart disease, cancer and diabetes. And because they slow digestion, they help you feel fuller longer. Not sure where to find them? Cohen says, "Check the ingredient list and try to make sure one of the first ingredients listed does say whole grain or 'whole wheat.' I also tell them to look at the label on the back where they have the breakdown and see just how much fiber's in it."

The Food and Drug Administration says products can bear a "whole grain" label as long as they contain at least 51 percent whole-grain ingredients. Great Harvest breads contain 100 percent. Stieler says, "We've always said that whole grains are real important and we're kind of glad now that the USDA is backing us up on it."

The low carb craze took a slice out of the bread business. A push toward whole grains might put it back. Let me point out that research suggests that it's not just the dietary fiber, but all the components of the whole grain that appear to act together to prevent disease.

The dietitian in my story is just saying when in doubt, look at the fiber content. If there's lots of fiber, there is probably whole grains.

What about the taste? General Mills says its new cereals have passed the taste test. People who aren't used to the taste should give it some time. Their taste buds might get used to it.