We hear so much about this “whole grain” this; “whole grain” that. So, today, out of an abundance of curiosity, I looked up what it means.
Every grain begins life as a whole grain. In the fields, in its habitat, it exists as a whole grain, which is, in essence, the entire seed of a plant. But the industry calls it a “kernel.”
This whole grain is made up of three key edible parts, wrapped by an inedible husk that protects it from pestilence, heat, and water.
The “bran” is the fibrous outer skin of the kernel, which makes up about 14 percent of its weight. The middle layer, the carbohydrate-rich “endosperm,” makes up the bulk—83 percent—of this little morsel. The innermost bit, the “germ”—contributing a mere 2 percent—is what sprouts into a new plant.
A whole grain contains all three parts of the kernel. When it’s refined in the flour mill, it’s stripped of the bran and the germ, leaving only the endosperm, which is then ground into a fine white powder called flour. When these two components are removed, much is lost. The whole grain is scrubbed off about 25 percent of its protein well as a sizable portion of 17 of its essential nutrients.
According to the Food and Drug Administration, a “whole grain” food product must have all three parts of a kernel. The Whole Grains Council has “stamps” to mark products on the content of their whole grains.
If a product bears the “100% stamp,” then all its grain ingredients are whole grain. If a product bears the “50%+ stamp,” then half of its grain ingredients are whole grain. If a product bears the third stamp, then it has some whole grains.