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Go with the grain: 7 facts about your favorite carbs

Pop quiz! Which is healthiest: whole grains, multigrain or enriched grains? While bread, crackers and pastas made with grains may sound healthy, not all are created equal. Jennifer Teems, MS, RD, LD, a clinical dietitian at Piedmont Atlanta Hospital, debunks common carbohydrate myths, explains which grains are healthiest and shares what to look for on food labels.

1. Whole grains win first place.

If you answered “whole grains” to the pop quiz above, you are correct! The American Dietetic Association recommends that 50 percent of the grains you consume come from this type of grain.

“Consuming whole grains helps you stay full, meet your daily fiber intake needs, maintain a healthy weight and have regular bowel movements,” says Teems. “Whole grains also provide many nutrients, like B vitamins and fiber. They are part of a healthy diet.”

2. Just because it’s brown doesn’t mean it’s whole grain.

Brown bread, pasta and crackers aren’t necessarily made with whole grains. “Look for the whole grain label,” says Teems. “Make sure the first ingredient is whole wheat or whole corn. Whole wheat bread, for example, must be made with 100 percent whole wheat.”

3. Whole grains can help you have a healthier heart.

Whole grains also benefit your cardiovascular system.

“Dietary fiber, like that found in whole grains, actually binds to the cholesterol in your gut and helps your body excrete it,” she explains. “This lowers cholesterol, promoting heart health and weight management.”

4. Multigrain isn’t necessarily whole grain – or healthy.

“You aren’t necessarily getting all of the wonderful health benefits from whole grains when you eat multigrain,” says Teems. “Multigrain means the product was derived from more than one grain.”

Multigrain products could technically be made with refined wheat and refined corn, which are stripped of many nutrients and fiber.

5. Bread isn’t the only source of whole grains.

There are plenty of delicious ways to enjoy whole grains and eating a variety can help you fulfill your daily nutritional needs.

“Rye, quinoa, faro, brown rice, oatmeal, amaranth, bulgur and unflavored popcorn are all good sources of whole grains,” she says. “It’s good to vary your grains because they have different amounts of fiber, carbohydrates and protein.”

6. Going low-carb isn’t always a good idea.

If whole grains are so good for you, is going low-carb ever a good idea if you aren’t medically required to do so?

“I don’t necessarily recommend it,” she says. “It’s unfortunate that some people believe grains are bad for you because of certain diet trends.” If you skip grains altogether, you will miss out on important nutrients, like B vitamins and fiber.

7. White bread can have a place in a healthy diet.

“Enriched products are fortified with things that many not be in the original grain, such as the nutrient folate. Folate is important for women who are pregnant or want to become pregnant,” says Teems. “If you eat only whole grains, you will miss out on dietary folate found in enriched foods.”

In addition to folate-enriched foods, the nutrient can be found in:

  • Dark, leafy greens like kale and spinach
  • Beans
  • Broccoli
  • Asparagus
  • Citrus fruits
  • Orange juice
  • Peanuts

Click here to learn more about choosing healthy grains.

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