Whole Grains as the Norm

“Choose whole grains instead of refined grains.

It’s a message we hear time and time again—and rightfully so. Nutrient-rich whole grains offer a “complete package” of health benefits, containing healthy fiber and bran that helps slow the breakdown of starch into glucose, thus maintaining steady blood sugar levels. Refined grains on the other hand are stripped of the bran and germ, as well as many nutrients in the milling process. Refined wheat for instance, loses half of its B vitamins, 90 percent of its vitamin E, and virtually all of its fiber in the milling process, and fortification only adds back a small amount of the lost nutrients. Not to mention that the fluffy white flower used in light, airy breads and pastries are quickly digested by the body, causing our blood sugar levels to spike and fall below normal levels.

If it’s not already a habit, knowing the benefits of whole grains will most likely have you shopping for them on your next trip. Brown rice, 100% whole wheat pasta, bulgur, wheat berries, steel-cut oats, millet, hulled barley, and other whole grains are easy to spot as replacements for the quintessential white rice and white pasta. It’s when it comes to breads and other grain-based foods where things get tricky.

Unfortunately, what started as an earnest public health message has turned into a deceptive marketing tool. In fact, a Harvard study states that due to inconsistent food labeling, foods identified as “whole grain” are not always healthy. Cereals that list whole grains as the first ingredient but follow with five different types of sugar prominently place “made with whole grains” on the front of the box. Breads that appear dark and textured with oats are often made of mostly milled flour. Whole grains are not the default in these products, and it takes careful, mindful shopping to select what’s best for our health. So how do we choose? Aside from eating whole grains in their natural form, we should scope out 100% whole grain breads that are high in fiber and that have few ingredients (especially added sugar) aside from the whole grain.

An American, David Lee Schlenker (pictured above), who resettled in the Cologne area in Germany started DLS Full Grain Mill Bakery that I wish would be located all over America. At DLS, breads made with whole grains are the norm. David also wants to remind his customers about the joy of eating as his trucks and packaging all bear a prominent "smiley" face.  Imagine eating delicious bread filled with poppy, sesame, and sunflower seeds, as well as pepitas and other seeds and grains wrapped in a bright and cheerful, smiling package. Each bite brings a new flavor and texture, and its heartiness, care, and depth makes it ideal for savoring.

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