Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Myth: Enriched grains are as good for my heart as whole grains.

Answer: Busted!

whole grain stamp
Enriched grains do provide you with some B vitamins, iron and carbohydrates, but they have not been proven to be as successful in helping your heart as whole grains have been. Whole grains help your heart by clearing out plaque that may be in your arteries. This plaque is typically known as blood cholesterol. Whole grains also help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease due to the soluble fiber in the whole grains. A study that was reported in the Tufts University’s Health and Nutrition Letter, showed that by “eating an average of one additional serving of whole grain per day, participants (14,000 people in four different communities in the USA) were 7 percent less likely to suffer heart failure (a condition where the heart can’t pump enough blood to meet the body’s needs) over the course of the (13 year) study.”

Foods with whole grains are fairly easy to find. You want to make sure that the first ingredient listed on the food package by the Nutrition Label indicates “whole grain” or “whole wheat.” The MyPlate website suggests that at least half of the grains we eat should be whole grains.

The ingredients list on your food package will list the ingredients in order based on what is used most (by weight) in that food item. You want to find the word “whole” in front of any grain ingredient that is in the food item, or look for the “100% Whole Grain” stamp on the front of the package. If the words “enriched” or “fortified” are in front of the word “grain” then you will know that the food is not a whole grain item, but in fact a processed grain. A whole grain product includes all three parts of the original grain: bran, germ and endosperm. Together, these three parts provide fiber, vitamins and minerals. The enriched grain product does not contain the bran or germ. So, the next time that you’re purchasing food, try choosing the whole grain foods in order to help protect your heart.

Additional health and nutrition information can be found at

Contributors: TeNeal Minks, Dietetic Intern, MO DHSS; Denise Schmitz, M.A., R.D., Nutrition & Health Education Specialist, University of Missouri Extension,, 816-482-5854

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