What is a whole grain? We hear more and more about whole grains in the news, in magazines and on the internet now. Whole grains or foods that are made from whole grains contain all three parts of the grain—the germ, endosperm and bran. The nutrients contained in whole grains work together to provide you with the maximum health benefits. The 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend 3 servings or more of whole grains each day.
The parts of a whole grain are:
Bran-The bran consists of the coarse outer layers of the kernel. It contains the greatest amount of fiber and is a rich source of B vitamins.
Endosperm-The endosperm is the largest section and the middle layer of the kernel. It contains starch, protein and some vitamins and minerals.
Germ-The germ is the seed for a new plant. It is the heart of the grain and the smallest part of the kernel, but is loaded with B vitamins, minerals, and healthy oils.
Unlike other grains, oats almost never have their bran and germ removed in processing. So if you see oats or oat flour on the label, you can be sure you are getting the whole grain. In addition to being a whole grain, oats are also a wonderful source of fiber. Oats and barley both contain a special kind of fiber called beta-glucan that is very effective in lowering cholesterol.
There are several different types of oatmeal available in most grocery stores:
Steel-Cut (Irish): Coarse, chopped up oats with a nutty texture. These take the longest to cook but yield the chewiest oatmeal.
Old-Fashioned (Rolled): Oat flakes that have been steamed, rolled flat and toasted. These cook faster than steel-cut oats.
Quick Cooking-Old-fashioned: Oats that have been rolled thinner and cut into smaller pieces, so they cook faster. This variety is usually made without added salt—check the “Nutrition Facts” label for sodium to be sure.
Instant: Thin, precooked oats with less natural flavor and texture. These often contain added salt, sugar, and/or other flavorings, so check the “Nutrition Facts” label if reducing dietary sodium or added sugar is important for you.
Source: Jon Perrot, Texas AgriLife Extension BLT.