I have some news: next week I will be leaving the Whole Grains Council to pursue my dream of teaching. I have been accepted to Teach for America, and will spend the summer in training to prepare to teach elementary school in New York City in September. I’m incredibly excited about this new opportunity, but of course, also sad to leave this wonderful organization. I thought that as a final reflection of my time here, I would write about what I’ve learned about whole grains over the past months – things that no normal person knows!
  1. Bread is 40% moisture. Fun fact, right? Here at the WGC this is a very helpful little tidbit, because it helps us to calculate grams of whole grain in a serving of bread. I mentioned this to a friend once, and she looked at me like I was a total weirdo.  Just one of many pieces of trivia that make me annoying to grocery shop with!
  2. Certain grains can be found refined OR whole, and some grains are ALWAYS whole. Wheat is the classic example of a grain that can be either – when it’s refined and/or enriched, it’s not a whole grain, and when it’s unrefined or sprouted, it is a whole grain. But there are several other grains like quinoa, millet, and oats that are always whole. And this can get tricky, because many food companies don’t specify that a grain is whole in the ingredient list, even if it is. So it’s extremely helpful to know what to look for.
  3. Even though “Multigrain Bread” sounds like a great healthy thing, it may not be as good for you as you’d think. In order for a bread to be called “multigrain” it simply needs to contain more than one grain. In many cases, several of the grains are in fact refined and not whole, which is not the healthiest choice. Your best bet is to stick to anything called “Whole Wheat Bread,” where you can be sure there is a large amount of whole grain.
  4. Despite the ongoing fiber craze, filling foods with bran is not the best choice. While it is true that the bran is the part of the grain that contains the most fiber, it is more important nutritionally to consume the whole grain, where you can get a good mix of protein, fiber, and complex carbohydrates.
  5. There are plenty of gluten-free whole grain options. A large misconception in the gluten-sensitive community is that they can’t enjoy whole grains like the rest of us, when in fact there are more whole grains that are gluten-free than not. Some of the delicious choices include brown rice, quinoa, and buckwheat.
  6. This isn’t whole grains-specific, but important nonetheless: there are a lot of scary-sounding things added into foods that don’t need to be there. After almost a year of spending large portions of my day scanning ingredient lists, I can firmly attest that a lot of what we eat contains some seriously yucky stuff. High fructose corn syrup? No thanks. Cellulose fiber – essentially paper? Yikes. We owe it to ourselves to read the ingredients of anything we’re going to put in our bodies; take a page out of Michael Pollan’s book, and if a third grader couldn’t pronounce it, don’t eat it.
I wish you all happy and healthy eating — and make at least half your grains whole!  — Molli

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