Remember the old food pyramid that helped you learn about the food groups? Although it served its purpose to introduce each food group, the pyramid shape has been replaced with the newly developed ChooseMyPlate program. The MyPlate approach helps you visualize how much of each food group should be represented at each meal. The U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends adults consume 5 to 8 ounce equivalents of grain per day and at least half of those grains should be whole grains.
So what is a grain? The grain group includes the many different types of cereal grains such as wheat, rice, oats rye, and corn. A grain kernel consists of three parts; the outer layer called the bran, the nutrient-rich reproductive part called the germ and the inner portion called the endosperm. Foods manufactured using the entire grains are classified as whole grain foods. The production of some foods, like white rice and white bread, removes the bran and germ. These foods, known as refined grains, provide a smooth texture and mild flavor, but also contain less fiber and nutrients.
To increase your fiber consumption, choose whole grain foods, a task that requires you to pay close attention to the food labels. Food packages may specify the product contains 100 percent whole grain, or foods with the whole grain ingredients in the first or second position in the list consist of whole grains. Whole grain ingredients to look for include buckwheat, bulgur, millet, oatmeal, quinoa, rolled oats, brown rice, wild rice, whole grain barley, whole rye and whole wheat.
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans suggest adults consume 14 grams of fiber for every 1,000 calories consumed. Eating whole grains helps you meet your fiber needs. Fiber, especially the fiber found in whole grains, helps reduce your risk of heart disease, aids in weight loss and can even reduce your risk for type 2 diabetes; see the article titled “Fiber and Diabetes” for more information on the association between fiber and diabetes.
Still confused on how much to consume each day? The recommendation of 5 to 8 ounce equivalents does seem confusing. What is an ounce equivalent anyway? It is best illustrated in examples. An ounce equivalent equals to one slice of bread, 1 cup of ready-to-eat breakfast cereal and ½ cup of rice or pasta. Three cups of popcorn, five whole wheat crackers and ½ an English muffin also represent an ounce equivalent.