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Stand by your bran

Whole grains are back on center stage

"Whole grains" is poised to be the next nutritional catchphrase, much as "low-carb" was the diet darling of the past five years.

Preliminary signs pointing in this direction include:

— The latest U.S. Dietary Guidelines, released in January, advise eating three 1-ounce servings of whole grains daily, particularly because of their fiber content. The guidelines have been published jointly every five years since 1980 by the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Agriculture, and suggest dietary habits to promote health and reduce risk for major chronic diseases. They serve as the basis for federal food and nutrition education programs.

The 2000 guidelines also mentioned whole grains, so this isn't breaking news. But that was before Atkins, South Beach, Sugar Busters and other low-carb, high-protein diets took over. Some advocates of those plans expected that the Food Guide Pyramid, which calls for a grain-based diet, would be revamped. But once again, the government's guidelines continue to go with the grain.

— A marketing research company, Mintel's Global New Products Database, predicts that whole grains will be the "ingredient of the year." Mintel added that an increasing number of products will be promoting their whole-grains status.

— Cereal giant General Mills has reformulated all its 52 breakfast cereals to contain whole grains.

— Post touted the whole grain content of its "Healthy Classics" cereal line when it launched its "Cinch an Inch" program with Naomi Judd as its spokesperson. It promotes weight loss by (what else?) eating more of these whole grain cereals.

— Nestle recently introduced a Lean Cuisine Spa line featuring whole-grain starches in its low-fat, low-cal dinners.

— Whole grain items are appearing on restaurant menus. Last month the 105-store chain, Noodles & Company, launched Whole Grain Tuscan Fettuccine, a dish that boasts 15 grams of fiber. The whole-wheat noodles in the dish can be substituted in any of the restaurant's entrees.

Does it mean that the next diet gurus will be basing their programs on brown rice and oats? Well, a search on yielded a new book, "The Whole Grain Diet: 28 Days to a New Life," by Ron Taylor. Don't be surprised if the "South Grain Diet" soon follows.

Deseret Morning News graphicDNews graphicCooking with whole grainsRequires Adobe Acrobat.

"Are whole grains the new fad? I don't know," said Salt Lake dietitian Jacob Schmidt. "There's always some new thing that people want to latch onto as the magic bullet. Hopefully, people can be sensible and include a variety of whole foods in their diet. In the past 50-60 years we've moved to processed, prepared food, where machines are doing the processing for us instead of our bodies."

But even low-carb advocates agree somewhat on whole grains. Schmidt pointed out that whole grains take longer to digest, so they don't cause the spike and subsequent drop in blood sugar levels that refined carbohydrates do, "and with the Atkins diet, that's supposed to be the evil." Likewise, the low-carb South Beach Diet advises that fiber in whole-grain breads delays the stomach's efforts to break down the carbohydrates.

When you hear "whole grain," people usually think of wheat. But amaranth, brown rice, oats, popcorn, pearl barley, quinoa and wild rice also qualify. Whole grains are living seeds that can sprout and grow.

A kernel of grain is composed of three parts: the bran, the germ and the starchy endosperm. When grain is refined, the bran and germ are removed, and about 25 percent of the protein and at least 17 key nutrients are lost, according to the Whole Grain Council, a group of scientists and grain manufacturers. Refined flour is enriched with vitamins and minerals, but whole grains provide more protein, more fiber and many more vitamins and minerals.

The U.S. Dietary Guidelines state, "Refined grains are low in fiber and in the protective substances that accompany fiber. Eating plenty of fiber-containing foods, such as whole grains (and also many fruits and vegetables) promotes proper bowel function. The high fiber content of many whole grains may also help you to feel full with fewer calories. Fiber is best obtained from foods like whole grains, fruits and vegetables rather than from fiber supplements for several reasons: there are many types of fiber, the composition of fiber is poorly understood and other protective substances accompany fiber in foods."

A diet rich in whole grains has a protective effect against several forms of cancer and heart disease, according to Meir Stampfer, a Harvard professor of nutrition who has published numerous studies on the health benefits of whole grains.

Stampfer and other experts say it's the total package in the whole grain — antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, as well as fiber — that act together to ward off disease. A recent study released by the American Institute for Cancer indicated that the anti-cancer properties of whole grain don't come from fiber alone.

But is eating a breakfast cereal that says it's made with "whole grain" any more beneficial than the oat-bran potato chips were back in the '80s? That's debatable. A serving of the new-and-improved Trix contains just 1 gram of fiber, and Boo Berry doesn't contain even 1 gram, despite the fact that they're made with whole grain. In contrast, Wheaties contain 3 grams of fiber per serving, Wheat Chex has 5 grams, and Fiber One contains 14 grams of fiber. A General Mills press release stresses that even though some of its cereals that don't have much fiber, they are still good sources of whole grains. But obviously, sweeter cereals are going to have a higher ratio of sugar to whole grain.

"General Mills is saying that fiber isn't the whole story, that there are phytonutrients in even small amounts of whole grains," said Schmidt. "But if a food contains mostly whole grains, the fiber content will follow."

Since the recommended daily fiber intake is 28 grams for most women and 35 for most men, you can't rely on a sugary cereal to meet your fiber needs.

Oatmeal, cornmeal and whole-wheat cooked cereals are another breakfast option. However, the instant, flavored oatmeals will also have a higher sugar content, Schmidt pointed out.

Besides breakfast cereal, there are many other ways to work whole grains into your diet.

"Just change your bread from white to whole grain," said Schmidt. "If you're having a sandwich, there's two servings right there."

Look for labels that say 100 percent whole wheat or 100 percent whole grain, rather than "made with whole grain," or "wheat bread." (Even white bread is made from wheat, and some products calling themselves "wheat" breads are just darker-colored white bread.)

Although popcorn is a whole grain, Schmidt advises using a low-fat microwave product or air-popping it yourself to control the amount of butter and oil, which can be excessive.

You can switch to brown rice for all your stir-fries and casseroles; use whole-wheat pasta for lasagna and spaghetti, make crunchy oatmeal toppings for casseroles and desserts, and serve cooked grains as side dishes or in salads.

But a sudden switch to all whole grains can cause major digestive disturbances such as cramps, diarrhea and gas. So slowly incorporate them, one serving at a time. As you add whole grains, be sure to drink more fluids to aid the digestive process.

What is a serving?

USDA dietary guidelines recommend that everyone eat three servings of whole grains daily. A serving is:

— One slice of whole grain or enriched bread

— 1/2 cup cooked oatmeal

—1 ounce breakfast cereal (This can be 1/2 cup to 1 1/4 cup, depending on the cereal; check the nutrition facts label.)

— 1/2 cup cooked pasta, rice or grits

— 1 small bran muffin


1 each green and red bell pepper, cut into 1 1/4-inch pieces

1 yellow squash, cut lengthwise in half and then into 1 1/4-inch pieces

1/4 cup reduced-fat vinaigrette-style Caesar salad dressing, divided

1 pound 90 percent lean ground beef

1 egg, lightly beaten

3/4 cup uncooked oats, quick or old-fashioned

1/4 cup fat-free milk

3 tablespoon finely chopped onion

1 tablespoon finely chopped garlic

1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

Shredded Parmesan cheese, optional

In medium bowl, toss vegetable pieces with 2 tablespoons dressing; set aside; In large bowl, combine beef, egg, oats, milk, onion, garlic, thyme, salt and pepper. Mix lightly but thoroughly. Shape mixture into 20 meatballs, about 1 1/2 inches in diameter. Alternately thread meatballs and vegetables onto eight 12-inch bamboo or metal skewers (bamboo skewers should be pre-soaked in water).

Arrange kebabs on broiler pan that has been sprayed with cooking spray. Drizzle with any dressing remaining in medium bowl. Broil 3-4 inches from heat, until meatballs are cooked through (160 degrees) and vegetables are tender, about 10 minutes, turning once and brushing with remaining 2 tablespoons dressing. Serve sprinkled with Parmesan, if desired.

Nutrients: 410 calories, 170 fat calories, 165 mg cholesterol, 1,080 mg sodium, 26 g carbohydrates, 4 g dietary fiber, 36 g protein.


3 cups cooked brown rice

3/4 cup dried cranberries

1 mango, chopped

3/4 cup chopped pecans, toasted*

3/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

1/2 cup raspberry vinaigrette dressing

1/4 cup plus two tablespoons fresh chopped parsley, divided

In large bowl, combine rice, cranberries, mango, pecans, pepper, vinaigrette and 1/4 cup parsley. Toss well. Garnish with remaining parsley. Serves 4. — USA Rice Federation


1/3 cup butter

1 pound cremini mushrooms, sliced

1 large sweet mild onion, finely chopped

3 cups cooked brown rice, divided

1 (6 1/2-ounce) container Garlic and Herbs Spreadable Cheese

2 (14-ounce) cans roasted garlic seasoned chicken broth, divided

2 cups water, additional if desired

8 slices pre-cooked ready-to-serve smoked bacon

Salt and pepper to taste

Melt butter in a large non-stick stock pot over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms and onion; cook about 10 minutes, stirring periodically. Let mixture cool slightly. In food processor or blender, combine mushroom mixture, 1 1/2 cups rice, cheese and 1 cup broth. Pulse mixture until mushrooms are finely chopped but not pureed and mixture is thoroughly combined. Return mixture to stock pot; stir in remaining rice, broth and water. Bring to a boil; cook uncovered over medium heat 5 minutes. Heat bacon slices between paper towels in microwave according to package directions. Chop bacon and set aside. Add salt and pepper to soup to taste. To serve, ladle soup into bowls; sprinkle with bacon. Serves 10-12. — USA Rice Federation


3 cups cooked medium grain brown rice

1 cup red grape tomatoes; sliced in half

1/3 cup pitted Kalamata olives, sliced

1/4 cup Feta vinaigrette dressing

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Romaine leaves

Combine rice, tomato halves, olives and vinaigrette in a large mixing bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Serve with whole Romaine leaves, which can be used like taco shells to hold filling. Alternatively, arrange Romaine leaves on a platter and place rice mixture on top of greens. Chill. — USA Rice Federation


You don't have to have a wheat grinder to make these pancakes. Just soften the wheat and let the blender do the rest.

1 cup wheat

1 cup milk

1 1/2 tablespoons honey

3 eggs

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

Cover wheat with about 1 cup of water and soak in the refrigerator overnight. Then drain the softened wheat well; blend with the milk in a blender for 4 minutes. Add the honey, eggs, salt and baking powder and blend 3 more minutes. Cook on a hot frying pan or griddle. Serve while hot. Makes 10-12 pancakes. — Valerie Phillips