An Argument for Refined Grains

If you asked me to cook rice in a pot on the stove, then I’d probably burn it.  It’s because I grew up with an almighty rice cooker which, by its magical ways, always produced the fluffiest white rice.  Oh how I love white rice.  But with the new wave of popularity that whole grains has received, my family and I are transitioning to eating more whole grain brown rice.

The demand is high and manufacturers are catching on to provide foods made with whole grains.  With the suggested health benefits (such as increased fiber, higher nutrient density, and heart-healthy powers), more whole grains in our manufactured foods is a good thing!

There are differences between a whole grain versus a refined grain (versus an enriched grain):
– a whole grain is “whole” in that it maintains its outer bran layer, central endosperm layer, and inner most germ.  The bran and germ contain most of the fiber and higher levels of macronutrients than the endosperm
– a refined grain is the whole grain which is stripped of its bran and germ, hence removing some of the fiber and nutrients
– an enriched grain is a refined grain to which manufacturers have added back certain vitamins and nutrients (refined and enriched grains are generally synonymous because of the nationally mandated law that requires refined grains to be enriched with nutrients and vitamins added back).

And although it’s great that the trend from refined/enriched grain to whole grains is emerging, I find one problem.  People have a complete aversion to refined/enriched grains as if they are “evil” and “bad.”  In my mind, it’s not that they’re “bad.”  They’re just “not as good.”  And there is a hairline difference that is significant enough to support an argument for refined grains.

Sure, whole grains provide more fiber, iron, and more of some vitamins, but enriched grains have much added back to be adequately nutritious (sans the fiber).  Also, whole grain flour doesn’t provide a cake it’s much needed soft mouthfeel as enriched cake flour provides.  Lastly, one piece of white bread or one small cup of non-whole wheat pasta will not kill you (in fact, some wholegran alternatives are higher in calories than their enriched grain versions).  It’s not going to break your diet and it won’t make you fat.

I think it would be great if everyone ate their majority of grains in the form of whole grains (oatmeal, whole wheat pasta/bread, barley, etc), but I think that everyone needs to stop hating on white bread and tweak their perspective about food.  And though I understand the need to set clear standards and limitations (because many need those strict guidelines), not everything is black and white in nutrition.  The gray area belongs in the group of MODERATION.

There are foods that are healthy.  There are foods that taste great.  Sometimes, food falls into both categories, and sometimes they don’t.  It’s okay to have things in moderation.  Don’t blame the food.  Just exercise some self-control.


2 Comments Add yours

  1. Shannon says:

    I also have been upping the amounts of whole grain that I have been eating, but if a restaurant doesn’t have whole wheat pasta or just has white rice, I don’t stress out. 🙂

    1. Thomas says:

      that’s the right attitude! 🙂

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