By Tyler Glidden

Senior Director of McPherson YMCA

Most everyone knows or has heard that whole grains are good for you and should be used instead of refined grains. Why is that so? What constitutes a whole grain anyway? We all know that it is better for us, but we don’t all know why or how to identify them.

Whole grains are either grains that are put into food in their whole form, which means they are put into the product whole with all its parts intact. It can also mean that the grains have been ground up into flour and all the parts are left in the flour.

Refined grains like white flour have the bran and germ removed which is where most of the vitamins, minerals, and fiber are held. Refined grains use only the Endosperm, which is the starchy part of the grain which is mostly carbohydrates and protein.

It is best to have the nutrition from all three parts of the grain rather than just the Endosperm.

There is a third type of grains called enriched grains. These are refined grains that have some of the nutrients that were lost during milling added back in after they are processed. Enriched grains are seen as more beneficial than refined grains but not as beneficial as whole grains. Check out some of the benefits of whole grains below:

— There is a ton of evidence out there that eating whole grains reduces the risk of many chronic diseases such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes and cancer.

— Regular consumption of whole grains also lowers one’s risk of obesity and can lower cholesterol.

— Recent studies have shown that whole grains can help reduce your risk for asthma and can help maintain a healthy blood pressure.

— There is also evidence that it can decrease gum disease and tooth loss.

— Whole grains have also been linked to heathier arteries and a reduced risk of inflammatory disease.

Most grocery stores sell whole grains in a variety of products including bread, pasta, cereal, flour and rice. Make sure the packages say the word “whole.” Some products may be the same color as whole grain products that aren’t.

Try to start working in some whole grains a little at a time until it is a part of everyday life. The American Heart Association recommends that we eat 6 servings of grains per day and at least half of those servings should come from whole grains.