September is both Hunger Action Month and National Whole Grains Month, which is perfect because eating whole grains can help curb hunger. Hunger Action Month is focused on spreading the word about hunger, taking action, and ending the crisis of hunger in the country. National Whole Grains month reminds us that whole grains are affordable and accessible to everyone.
In Tarrant Area Food Bank’s service area, one of every six people faces hunger. The USDA describes this as food insecurity: the lack of consistent access to enough food for an active, healthy life. Both the quantity and quality of food can be of concern when dealing with food insecurity. Whole grains are a great way for quality and quantity to meet in a limited food budget. They pack in important nutrients, keep you fuller longer and provide energy.
What Makes a Whole Grain?
Most foods lose nutrients during processing so the less processing the better. This holds true for whole grains, as they contain the entire grain kernel. Refined grains on the other hand have been processed to remove parts of the grain kernel so all that is left is the endosperm.
Parts of a Grain
Bran: contains fiber and B vitamins
Germ: contains antioxidants, vitamin E and B vitamins
Endosperm: provides energy through carbohydrates and protein
Learn to Spot Whole Grain Imposters
To see the difference processing makes, compare whole wheat flour with to all-purpose flour. Whole wheat flour is characteristically brown, whereas all-purpose flour is white.
However, when it comes to bread, a brown color doesn’t necessarily signify a whole-wheat product. Some products have additives, like molasses, to attain a brown color. This is why it is important to read ingredient and nutrition facts labels when purchasing prepared and packaged foods and choose whole grain products more often.
As recommended by MyPlate, half of your grains should be whole. You can check choosemyplate.gov to find out your recommended daily grain and fiber intake based on your age and sex.
Curb Hunger with Fiber
Fiber, found in high amounts in the bran portion of the grain, is absorbed by the body slowly. This allows us to feel full longer. American adults tend to just get about half of the recommended fiber intake of 20 to 35 grams per day.
Increasing your whole grain intake will also increase your fiber intake. A good source of fiber contains three or more grams of fiber per serving, and an excellent source is five or more grams per serving.
Whole Grain Ingredients to Look For
On your next shopping trip, check to see if the first item on the ingredient list contains one of these items:
- Brown rice
- Rolled oats
- Whole grain barley
- Whole grain corn
- Wild rice
- Whole grain sorghum
- Whole grain triticale
- Whole oats
- Whole rye
- Whole wheat
Easy Ways to Add More Whole Grains and Curb Hunger
- When baking you can substitute half of the all-purpose flour the recipe calls for with whole wheat flour
- Use brown rice, barley, quinoa or wild rice instead of plain white rice
- Switch to whole grain pasta
- Try whole grain tortillas
Celebrate Hunger Action Month with us and share the love of whole grains with your hungry neighbors by donating a bag or two of these tasty, nutritious, powerhouse foods. Visit our Community Food Drives page for a list of the most requested items. While you’re at it, why not try something new yourself? Visit our Pinterest page for recipes featuring whole grains or sign up for a Cooking Matters class to sharpen your kitchen skills and nutrition knowledge.
For more information about whole grains, visit the Whole Grains Council website.
By Elise Stewart
Nutrition Services Intern, Tarrant Area Food Bank