From the Desk of Extension-The Importance of Grains

UW Madison Division of Extension Dodge County has launched a new effort to support Dodge County residents especially during these uncertain times. We are calling it “FROM THE DESK OF EXTENSION-(article topic)”.  This will be a weekly article covering topics from our programmatic areas of agriculture, families, youth, and food/nutrition. The articles will address current issues facing residents through the lens of those program areas. Thank you for supporting our mission to bring relevant research based information and education to the residents of Dodge County.

Dodge County Extension FoodWIse Program

When you wander down the bread aisle at the grocery store, are you ever overwhelmed by all of the options available to us consumers? You may ask, “How do I know which one to pick?” or “Which one is the healthiest choice for my family?” MyPlate, which is the updated version of the food pyramid, suggests to make half of our grains whole grains. So, what are whole grains and why are they important?

A grain kernel has three parts: the outside shell called the bran, the middle called endosperm and the inner, middle part called the germ. MyPlate recommends making half of our grains whole because each part of the grain kernel helps our bodies in a different way. The bran provides fiber, which aids in digestion. The endosperm has carbohydrates, which provides us with energy, and the germ has vitamins and minerals that help our brains & nervous system work at their peak while also providing nutrients to help fix cells that get old or broken.

So, now that we are in the bread aisle, how do we tell if the bread that we are eating is a whole grain? Oftentimes, many people think that the color of the bread can determine if it is whole grain–brown bread is whole grain white bread is not. Did you know that some bread companies actually use molasses (a sugar) to dye their bread brown? So, unfortunately, color is not a good way to tell if something is whole grain. The best way is to read the ingredients. The ingredients are usually found  near the black and white nutrition facts chart on the back of the package. When you find the ingredients, you want to check what the first ingredient is. The first ingredient is the most important ingredient because ingredients are listed from most to least. So, if we want most of our bread to be whole grains, we want the first ingredient to be a whole grain word. Some whole grain words are:


Brown rice Buckwheat Bulgur
Millet Oatmeal Popcorn
Quinoa Rolled oats Whole grain barley
Whole grain corn Whole grain sorghum Whole oats
Whole rye Whole wheat Wild rice


Next time you are at the grocery store, take an extra minute to turn your grain foods over and see if they are a whole grain!


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