Back in the day, you were a health nut if you chose a simple wheat bread over white. Now, research has demonstrated that wheat is not enough, you need whole grain wheat. In fact, we're supposed to be eating 48 grams of whole grains daily.
One of the easiest ways to incorporate whole grains into your diet is with bread. So this week I decided to investigate whole grain bread choices. Plus, bread was on my grocery list, so I thought I’d kill two birds with one stone.
Standing in the bread aisle, I stared at the variety of brands in front of me. Reading the ingredient lists, I encountered the following words: whole grain, whole wheat, whole oats, stoneground whole wheat, wheatberry, wheat flour, semolina, durum wheat, multigrain, and enriched flour. Well, I thought, which of these words describe whole grain bread? Is it just the one that says, “whole grain?” What about “whole wheat” and “whole oats” are those whole grains? And isn’t “multigrain” a good choice too?
All I can say is, holy schnikes Batman, I’m confused.
To sort out the mess, I sought the advice of the Whole Grains Council, an organization dedicated to helping consumers learn more about the benefits of whole grains and finding whole grain products.
Realizing consumers needed help identifying true whole grain products, the council introduced the Whole Grain Stamp in 2005. There are two versions of the stamp, the Basic Stamp and the 100% Stamp.
Thank God for the stamp. It made my search for a whole grain bread much easier. But it still wasn't without some difficulty.
There isn't a standard placement for the stamp, so it can be tough to find. It was generally located on the back of the bread, next to the bar code. But not always. And many products had no stamp.
Great, I thought. Now what do I do if my favorite bread has no stamp?
You have to read the ingredient list.
Here’s a rundown of the words you could encounter on packaging and what they mean.
Words on Packaging
What They Mean
Whole grain [name of grain]
Whole [other grain]
Stoneground whole [name of grain]
Oats, oatmeal [including old-fashioned oatmeal, instant oatmeal]
These mean “whole grain.” In general, if you see the word “whole,” you’re good.
The kicker is, you don’t know how much whole grain is in the product. Could be a lot, could be a little. Unless they tell you on the packaging, you have no way of knowing.
This is where it gets tricky. These products could have whole grains in them, but you can’t be sure.
And “multigrain” simply means there are a variety of grains in the product. Multigrain breads are also described as “7-grain,” “9-grain,” or similar. These words are stating the number of grains in the product, not whether they’re whole or refined. They might be whole grains, they might be refined grains, or they could be a mix of the two.
Finding out that “multigrain” may not always be a good choice really irked me. It reminded me how clever marketing folks are, because that’s a great word. It sounds really impressive and makes me think I’m buying a whole grain product. Maybe I am. Or maybe I’m being dupped. I hate feeling like a sucker.
Degerminated corn meal
These are code for refined grain products. They never describe whole grains.
“Made with whole grains”
Is your BS detector going off? It should be. If there’s no further information on the package, i.e. “16 grams of whole grains per slice,” or “100% whole wheat,” then be very, very skeptical.
I could throw a couple of whole grains of wheat into a vat of cookie dough and technically call it “made with whole grains.” I’m not lying, there are whole grains in there, but I’m not being entirely truthful either.
This statement is deceptive marketing at its finest. It reminds me of my push-up bra. The bra showcases my assets in the best way possible. I’m not lying about what I’m made of, but what you see is not really what you get.
I hope this sheds some light on the whole grain issue.
Happy shopping and I’ll see you in the bread aisle. I’ll be the one in the push-up bra looking for the Whole Grain Stamp.
For more information, check out the Whole Grains Council website. (click here)