The Claim: Multigrain Foods Are Good for You
In some cases, multigrain foods may be healthful, but in others they're no better for you than white bread. A growing array of products from bread and pasta to cookies and crackers now proudly proclaim themselves to be multigrain. Many consumers assume the label is a synonym for whole grain or whole wheat. But it's not. It simply means the food is made from several grains, which may be refined.
In their natural state, grains consist of three parts: bran, germ, and endosperm. When they're refined to make white bread or pasta, the bran and germ are stripped away, leaving only the endosperm. This results in fewer nutrients and less fiber. Some nutrients are added back, which is why you often see the term enriched flour. But it's still refined.
Whole grains, in contrast, retain all parts of the grain. Examples include 100 percent whole wheat bread and pasta, brown rice, and oats, as well as less familiar varieties such as bulgur. Cohort studies have linked a diet rich in whole grains to a reduced risk of heart disease and diabetes. Whole grains can also help prevent constipation and other digestive problems.
Multigrain foods don't necessarily have such benefits because they may contain few, if any whole grains. Consider, for example, multigrain Pringles potato chips. The canister and TV ads for the product prominently feature stalks of wheat, giving the impression that the chips are whole wheat. Yet the main ingredient is actually rice flour (which is refined) along with a smattering of wheat bran, barley flour, and dried black beans. The fiber content--a measly one gram per serving--is no greater than what you get in regular Pringles.
To avoid falling for marketing tricks like this, beware of not only the term multigrain but also descriptors such as 12 grain (or any other number) and made with whole grains. Also, don't assume something is whole grain just because it's brown or involves wheat somehow. Instead, check the ingredients to make sure the first one listed contains the word whole.
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Reprinted from Coffee Is Good for You by Robert J. Davis, PhD, by arrangement with Perigee, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc., Copyright (c) 2012 by Robert J. Davis, PhD, MPH