How to Decipher Whole Grain Food Labels and Avoid Confusion

whole grain brown bread

In your efforts to eat right, you may be including more whole grain foods in your shopping cart. However, you may be shortchanging yourself into what you are considering. Since product labeling can be confusing, here is the real scoop on whole grain foods that can help navigate through the aisles and make the best choices.

To be guaranteed the product is whole grain instead of a mix of other grains, you need to check that the first word is whole on the label such as 100 percent whole wheat or whole-grain oats.

This wording sounds easy enough, but play with the wording a bit such as seeing an excellent source of fiber translates into what may be five grams of fiber per serving for that labeling. Better yet, wording such as a good source of whole grain on the product label, means you can count on at least two and half grams of fiber per serving.

Manufacturers have such freedom when it comes to wording for product labeling. Take the case of made with whole grains that you often see on product labels. Of course, you assume that loaf of bread or box of cereal just has more health benefits to offer from varied grains. However, the only clue as to how much whole grain is in that product is seeing how far down on the label that each specific grain is listed. If that grain is practically at the bottom, then you aren’t getting the wholesome food product that you think you are paying for.

Another stretch of wording that can confuse consumers is seeing multigrain on the food label. Though you do get more than one type of grain in that product, there is no guarantee that the grains inside are whole grain. In fact, the major ingredient could simply be enriched white flour, white rice and other refined grains where the bran, germ and endosperm have been removed.

One of the most deceptive uses of whole grain wording is seeing 100 percent wheat on the food label. This one is not what you assume it is with the same amount of fibers and nutrients. It can just mean enriched white flour. You need to make sure the package label states whole 100 percent rye or whole wheat to be on the same side.

You also want to avoid trusting a food label that has the word enriched on it. This means that some of the vitamins have been stripped away through the manufacturing process, but the fiber is still intact.

One last piece of advice in regard to whole grain food products is not to trust the darker color that something like bread may have as a sign it is an authentic whole grain product. Food coloring or molasses can easily be the reason for that change of color.


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