The popularity of whole grains is on the rise. The 2015 Food & Health Survey from IFIC reported that 67% of Americans think whole grains are the most important item they look for on packages, while 70% are trying to consume more whole grains. If you are part of that 70%, the grocery aisles can seem overwhelming. How do you know which products contain whole grains? Can you trust the product claims? Even if the label says “whole grain,” how do you know how much whole grain it contains? And how much whole grain are you supposed to eat anyway?

To tackle these issues head on, it’s important to first gain a solid understanding of what a whole grain is. Whole grains contain all of a kernel’s original three parts – the bran, germ, and endosperm. Refined grains have had their bran and the germ removed, and without these parts, you’re missing out on half to two-thirds of the nutrients naturally found in the whole grain. All grains start out as whole grains, and are best consumed as such!

Once you know what a whole grain is and why they are healthier, identifying them in practice may still seem daunting. One approach is to check the ingredient list for terms like “whole,” “cracked,” “rolled,” or “flaked” before any grain listed; these signal whole grains. Some terms you can readily avoid include “enriched,” “degerminated,” “bran,” “germ,” and “starch” (as in “oat bran,” “wheat germ,” or “cornstarch”). These terms never describe whole grains.

To make your search even easier, ten years ago the Oldways Whole Grains Council created the Whole Grain Stamp to help consumers quickly identify foods containing a significant amount of whole grain. Today it’s on more than 10,000 products in 44 countries.

You’ll see two versions of the Whole Grain Stamp on packaging: the 100% Stamp and the Basic Stamp. The 100% Stamp appears on products where ALL of the grain is whole grain; these foods must have a minimum of 16g (a full serving) of whole grain per labeled serving. The Basic Stamp appears on foods with a mix of whole grain and refined grain; its minimum is 8g (a half serving) of whole grain per serving.

Each Stamp clearly displays the number of grams of whole grain content per labeled serving, so you can easily see how much whole grain a food provides. Experts recommend we consume 48g or more of whole grains daily – which is three servings or more.

The Whole Grain Stamp makes it easy, without counting grams. Just choose three whole grain foods with the 100% Stamp, or six products bearing ANY Whole Grain Stamp to reach the recommended daily amount. It’s that simple! -- by Harley Songin / Stamp Program Manager

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