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Ask a Dietitian: The Difference Between Whole and Refined Grains

by Kaeley Jackson, OU Dietetic Student

Q: What is the difference in whole grains and refined grains?

A: Whole grains are the seeds of certain plants. The seed, or kernel, is made up of three parts: the bran, the endosperm and the germ. Each part contains valuable nutrients that play an important role in your diet.

There are many types of grains, including cereal grains such as wheat, rice, oats, barley, corn, wild rice, and rye, as well as pseudocereals such as quinoa and buckwheat. These grains can be either whole or refined.

Refined grains are whole grains that have had the germ and the bran removed. Examples include white rice, white flour, grits and cream of wheat. This results in a loss of fiber, vitamins and minerals. Some refined grains are enriched so that some of the lost minerals and vitamins are added back. Some manufacturers are required to enrich white flour, resulting in flour that is a significant source of several vitamins and iron. However, it still lacks some nutrients and the fiber found in whole grain flour.

It is recommended that you make at least half of your grain product choices whole grain each day. Whole grains are a source of fiber and typically low in fat. A diet rich in whole grains has been shown to have a number of health benefits and may help reduce your risk of heart disease.

For nutritional counseling, Norman Regional Health System offers the guidance of registered dietitians. Those interested can schedule an appointment for an assessment with a referral from their family physician.

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Contact Kelly Wells
Norman Regional Health System

Office (405) 307.2143
Fax (405) 307.2144