A healthy living blog from Marshfield Clinic Health System

Get the whole story on whole grains

You’ve probably heard you should eat more whole grains to reduce your cancer and heart disease risk, control weight and improve bowel health.

But now you’re asking, “What’s a whole grain, and how much is enough?”

What’s a whole grain and what’s not?

Whole grains contain the entire grain kernel. They’re rich in fiber, B vitamins and iron. Some examples of whole grains include whole-wheat flour, bulgur (cracked wheat), oatmeal, brown rice and whole cornmeal.

Refined grains have been milled, resulting in a finer texture and longer shelf life. Some refined grains are enriched with vitamins and minerals but have less fiber than whole grains. Examples of refined grains include white flour, white bread and white rice.

How much is enough?

Based on a 2,000 calorie per day diet, adults should aim to consume 6 ounces of grains daily, and at least half should be whole grains, Marshfield Clinic dietitian Ashley Short said. One slice of bread; ½ cup of cooked brown rice, pasta or oatmeal; or a cup of dry cereal is considered an ounce from the grains group.

Eating more whole grains

Improve your whole-grain game by eating brown rice instead of white rice, adding barley to soups and casseroles, choosing whole-wheat pizza crust and baking with whole-wheat flour.

Read labels. The first ingredient should be a whole grain, such as 100 percent whole-wheat flour. Products that contain 10-19 percent of the recommended daily fiber intake are good choices, and products with 20 percent or more are even better.

Get a head start on eating more whole grains by trying this fiber-packed recipe for whole-wheat penne with pesto and cherry tomatoes.

Plate of penne pasta with pesto and cherry tomatoes

Penne with Pesto and Cherry Tomatoes

Servings: 4


  • 1 pound cherry tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 8 ounces whole wheat penne pasta
  • 2 tablespoons pesto (you can substitute ½ cup each fresh chopped basil and Parmesan cheese)
  • Salt and fresh ground pepper to taste


  • Cut the tomatoes into halves and put them in a glass or stainless steel bowl. Add olive oil and 1 teaspoon of salt. Toss, cover and leave at room temperature for several hours or overnight, tossing once or twice.
  • When you’re ready to eat, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the penne and cook according to the package directions. Drain and place the hot pasta in a serving dish, adding the tomatoes with their juice and the pesto.
  • Toss. Season with freshly ground pepper and serve hot or at room temperature.

Nutrition information (per serving)

290 calories; 9 g fiber; 10 g protein;  600 mg sodium; 40 g carbohydrates

Source: Whole Grains Council


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

View our comment policy