Don’t be cheated by fake claims of whole grains

If you’ve ever taken a look at the whole grain “resume,” I’m sure you’ll admit it’s darn impressive.

Whole grains can help reduce your risk of heart disease, diabetes, certain cancers and stroke. Plus that it’s a nutritional pot of gold, containing a whole host of B vitamins as well as calcium, iron, magnesium, zinc, copper selenium and potassium.

Now, new research has added even more dazzle to the whole-grain claim to fame.

Two recent studies have found that switching to whole grains from refined ones can not only bolster your immune system and fight inflammation, but also help you lose weight and rev up your metabolism as well.

But before you do a supermarket run to start adding more whole grain items to your pantry, there’s something important you need to know.

Lots of those whole grain claims on bread, crackers, snack bars and tons of other items are fake. Many are nothing more than plain old processed grains masquerading as their healthy counterparts.

Once you know what to look for, however, getting the right kind of grains will be as easy as pie (with a whole-grain crust, of course).

Finding a grain of truth

A new study from Tufts University has added more reasons to check your grains.

Researchers there recruited 81 people to participate in a carefully controlled study for two months in which all meals were prepared by a nutritionist who carefully monitored their whole-grain content.

First, for two weeks, the entire group ate a diet containing your typical refined grains. Then, for the next six weeks, 41 people were assigned to receive meals that were considered to be high in whole grains.

Even in that short time, ditching the processed grains and eating whole ones made a world of difference in the health of the 41 assigned to the whole grain group. It upped their good gut bacteria, lowered inflammation and increased their immune function.

On top of those findings, a side study with the same participants found that the ones who got the true whole grains for six weeks burned more calories each day — what the researchers said was the equivalent of a brisk half-an-hour walk.

So what, exactly, are whole grains? It sure seems simple enough, but unfortunately the FDA has allowed food companies to turn it into another Rubik’s Cube of shopping.

Whole grains are wheat, corn, rice, oats, barley, quinoa, sorghum, spelt and rye — but only when they are in their “whole” form.

But since the FDA only really regulates the term “whole wheat bread” (that must be 100 percent whole wheat), you can pretty well consider most grain claims on a food package to be half-baked!

So here’s what you need to know to crack the whole-grain mystery:

#1: These are not whole grains: enriched flour, bran, wheat germ (surprise!), degerminated corn meal, wheat flour (another surprise), unbleached enriched wheat flour, and wheat bread.

#2: Products that say they “contain” or are “made with” whole grains could possibly qualify as whole grain if…which brings me to #3.

#3: Unless a true whole grain is the first ingredient, we really don’t have any idea how much is in there. It could be a lot, it could be a smidgen. Two other mystery words are “multigrain” and “stoneground,” which are about as meaningless as the term “government oversight”!

While it may sound complicated, there are three easy way to make sure you’re not being cheated.

  • Look for the word “whole.” As in whole wheat flour, whole cornmeal, and whole-grain brown rice.
  • Other whole grains include popcorn (another surprise), whole oats, wild rice, barley, buckwheat and quinoa.
  • Remember, the ones that are “whole” should be the first ingredient — otherwise how much is in the product is a secret only known by the company that makes it.

And even if you’re eating gluten-free, you can still enjoy all the health benefits whole grains have to offer. Look for “whole” versions of rice, corn, millet, oats and sorghum.

“Whole grains increase metabolism, may help promote weight loss: Hannah Nichols, February 9, 2017, MNT,