Grains of Truth

Grains are gaining ground with customers, and manufacturers are improving taste and variety. Are your menus keeping pace?

Most Americans meet the government’s daily recommendation for grain consumption, yet the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) estimates that nine-out-of-10 Americans don’t consume their daily goal for “whole” grains. According to The NPD Group, a Port Washington, N.Y.–based research company, only about 10% of the grains we eat are whole grains. The rest are refined grains like white bread.

To reduce risk for chronic diseases, the 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans advises adults to eat at least five to 10 daily servings of grains (based on individual calorie needs). At least half of these servings should be whole grain; the other half should be enriched.

Whole grains are diverse, versatile and nutritious, and increasingly tastier. They include whole wheat, oats and oatmeal, corn and popcorn, brown and wild rice, couscous, wheat berries, whole rye, whole-grain barley, buckwheat (kasha), amaranth, millet, quinoa, triticale (wheat and rye), spelt, teff, sorghum, kamut and bulgur (cracked wheat). One serving (one ounce) equals one slice of bread, one cup of ready-to-eat cereal, or one-half cup of cooked cereal, rice or pasta.

New definition: In February 2006, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) defined “whole grain” as “intact, ground, cracked or cereal flakes of grain containing all three main parts: the outer bran, the inner endosperm and the inner germ (seed or embryo) in the same relative proportions as found in nature.” According to the new definition, whole grains do not include 100% bran , beans like soy, oilseeds (e.g., sunflower, flaxseed) or roots (such as arrowroot).

Processed (refined) grains like white flour contain the endosperm. Milling removes the bran and germ along with fiber, many vitamins and minerals, and phytochemicals (plant substances that may help prevent diseases).

Many refined grains are “enriched” with thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, iron and folic acid.  They may contain more of these nutrients than whole grain foods do (if not enriched).

Nutritional value: The bran contains most of the fiber, B-vitamins (e.g., thiamin, riboflavin) and minerals (e.g., iron, zinc). The endosperm provides most of the calories (energy) from protein and complex carbohydrates (starch), but less fiber, vitamins and minerals than the bran. The germ contains mostly B-vitamins, Vitamin E, polyunsaturated fat (linoleic acid) and minerals (e.g., phosphorus).

Whole grains are naturally low in sodium, fat and calories, and are cholesterol-free. Protein quality can be increased by combining grains with beans, peanut butter, dairy, eggs or meat.

Health benefits: Whole grains contain insoluble fiber (e.g., wheat, corn) and soluble fiber (e.g., oats). Insoluble fiber may help reduce risk for constipation and colon cancer. Soluble fiber may help control and reduce risk for type 2 diabetes. Soluble fiber can also reduce high blood cholesterol and blood pressure to lower risk for heart disease and stroke. Whole grains are filling and may help prevent weight gain and obesity.

The FDA allows health claims on food labels for whole-grain foods (e.g., oatmeal, whole-wheat bread) stating they may reduce risk for some cancers (e.g., breast, colon, prostate) and heart disease. Recently, the FDA approved a claim for barley (containing soluble fiber) to reduce risk for heart disease.  Health benefits for whole grains may be related to the fiber, oligosaccharides (indigestible carbohydrates), antioxidants (e.g., selenium, Vitamin E) and phytochemicals (e.g., lignans, saponins, phenols, phytoestrogens). 

Label reading: According to the FDA, “whole grain” foods must contain “51% or more whole grain ingredients by weight” to qualify for health claims. To identify whole grains, look for “100% whole wheat” or “100% whole grain” as the first ingredient or part of the name.

Whole grain and fiber are not synonymous. Fiber content is affected by many factors such as type of grain (e.g., whole wheat and oats have more fiber than rice), sugar and moisture content. High-fiber breads can contain added seeds (e.g., flax), nuts, cellulose, inulin (soluble fiber), soy or bran instead of whole-grain flour.

In January 2005, the Whole Grains Council started categorizing some whole-grain foods. An “excellent source” contains at least 16 grams of whole grain per serving, a “good source” provides at least 8 grams per serving, and “100% excellent whole grain” contains at least 16 grams and no refined grains. Since “good source” whole-grain foods could still be as much as 85% refined grains, the best bet is “100% excellent whole grain” food.

No fooling: Don’t be fooled by these label terms: enriched wheat flour, made with whole grain or whole wheat, whole grain blend, seven-grain, multigrain, 100% wheat, semolina (durum wheat), rye, pumpernickel, natural or organic. These foods can be made from mostly white (refined) flour.  Dark breads may be colored with molasses, caramel or brown sugar, yet contain no whole grains.

For white-bread lovers, new “whole grain white” breads and other products are available. But they are not 100% whole grain.

More From FoodService Director

Sponsored Content
vegetables with dip foodservice healthy menu

From Mrs. Dash Foodservice.

There was a time when healthy food meant counting calories, omitting carbs, giving up sugar and going fat-free—in other words, it was all about deprivation.

But not anymore. Today’s definition of healthy means an overall focus on nutrition and wellness that doesn’t mean giving up enjoyment. It’s all about balance: good fats, healthy carbs, better sweeteners, wholesome ingredients and satisfying flavor enhancements. It means food that customers can feel good about, at the same time that they’re enjoying the dining experience.

According to...

Industry News & Opinion

Aramark today announced a partnership with celebrity chef and TV personality Cat Cora that will put a new concept from the Top Chef star in Aramark’s North American business-and-industry accounts.

The new fast-casual concept, called Olilo by Cat Cora, promises a healthy, made-your-way menu, according to the global foodservice provider.

“By bringing together Chef Cora's award-winning brand and healthy cooking advocacy and Aramark's commitment to enriching and nourishing the lives of the thousands of consumers we serve every day, we have an opportunity to elevate the on-site...

Industry News & Opinion

Members of Congress and several advocacy groups gathered on Capitol Hill on Wednesday to highlight the potential loss of millions in state funding because of a Child Nutrition Reauthorization block grant introduced last month, and to call upon legislators to squash the bill.

The Improving Child Nutrition and Education Act of 2016 houses a statute that would provide three unannounced pilot states with block grant funding. Participating states would be exempt from federal nutrition regulations and would no longer qualify for the 6-cent reimbursement per lunch garnered by certified...

Menu Development
blueberry pancakes

Breakfast is booming—and not just in the morning. The growing popularity of all-day breakfast helped fuel a 5.4% increase in McDonald’s first-quarter sales, management reported in April. And a survey by the NPD Group found one-third of “All Day Breakfast” buyers hadn’t visited the restaurant in the month prior to the extended breakfast hours.

While only 14% of operators surveyed for FSD’s 2016 FoodService Handbook said they expected breakfast sales to surge this year, jumping on the pancakes-and-bacon bandwagon looks increasingly profitable. With the erratic schedules of college...

FSD Resources