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In Your Cart: Explores Multi vs. Whole Grain Labeling

Product Comparisons: Pasta, Crackers, Chips

It seems that no matter which aisle I turn down the grocery store these days, new products are popping up with the word multi and whole grain on them. I'm used to seeing the label in the bread aisle, but now it's everywhere. What does this mean and why is it important to me?

Whole grains still include the bran and germ parts of the plant where all of the good vitamins and minerals grow. Multigrain products are made from refined grains that have removed these healthy plant parts and often have brown food coloring added to confuse us into thinking they are healthy.

The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends that at least half of the all the grains we eat are whole grains (not multi grains). Think of what that potentially represents in profit to food manufacturers who change their grain from the less healthy refined grains to the vitamin, mineral rich whole grain or for those who confuse you into thinking their multigrain is the healthy whole grain. Whole grains are good for us because they have been linked to a lower risk of heart disease, diabetes, certain cancers, GI health and healthy weight management.

Multigrain Examples

Crackers

Keebler Minis Original: 0 grams fiber, 1st ingredient enriched flour,

Keebler Club Minis Multigrain: < 1 gram fiber, 1st ingredient enriched flour

Leave it out of the cart

Chips

Pringles Regular: 1 gram fiber, 1st ingredient dried potatoes

Pringles Multigrain: 1 gram fiber, 1st ingredient rice flour,

Leave it out of the cart

Whole Grain Examples

Kraft Macaroni & Cheese Regular: 2 grams of fiber, 1st ingredient enriched macaroni

Kraft Macaroni & Cheese Whole Grain: 5 grams of fiber, 1st ingredient

enriched pasta with whole wheat flour. This is a keeper, just make sure you prepare it with low fat milk and soft tub margarine.

Barilla Spaghetti Regular: 2 grams of fiber

Barilla Whole Grain Spaghetti: 6 grams of fiber

This is a keeper. Add fresh diced tomatoes,

onions and peppers to a ready made sauce to

further amp up the fiber and nutrition and

dilute out the sodium.

How much whole grain do we need each day? According to the American Heart Association the range is 25-38 grams of fiber/day with women representing the lower end of the range, and men on the higher end. Unfortunately the average female only gets 14 grams of fiber/day and the average male only gets 18 grams. That's roughly ½ of what is considered a healthy serving.

Let's review one more time why whole grains are so much better for us:

  • Heart disease: lower cholesterol
  • Diabetes: slow down the rise of blood sugar after eating a meal
  • Cancer and GI health: acts like a tooth brush in the GI tract
  • Weight: makes you feel fuller longer

It's important to increase your fiber intake slowly and drink plenty of fluids because fiber works by absorbing fluids. Other goods sources of fiber include any plant, otherwise known as the fruit and vegetable aisle.

Courtesy of:

Sheryl Lozicki is a Registered Dietitian at Saint Mary's Health Care and the Director of Nutrition and Wellness.

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