Harvard researchers developed a simple formula for determining if a food is truly “whole grain” or not.

Instead of plowing through the list of ingredients for the 29+ different types of whole grains or the 21+ types of added sugar, check the nutrition label for less than 10 grams (symbol <10 grams) of carbs for every 1 gram of fiber.

The Harvard team studied 545 grain products and assessed the usefulness of their ratio, of the Whole Grain Stamp and of three general USDA guidelines for whole grains. It found that their ratio was the “best single metric” to capture overall “carbohydrate quality.”

The finding greatly simplifies the evaluation of a product’s carb quality.  Too many breads, cereals, granola bars, pastas and other products labeled “whole grain” or “multigrain” simply aren’t whole grain because the whole grain ingredient isn’t listed first.

Instead, the first ingredient is often called “wheat flour,” aka “white,” refined,” or enriched” flour and the second ingredient is probably a sugar substance.

If doing ratios at the supermarket aren’t your thing, an even easier way to use Harvard’s findings is to multiply the number of fiber grams by 10.  If the answer is greater than the number of carbs per gram, it’s a genuinely whole grain product you’re holding.

My Take on the ratio:  I checked the carb/fiber ratios on my two favorite brands of Whole Wheat Oatmeal bread and found that one ratio was 20 grams of carbs to 4 grams of fiber (10:2) and the other was 22 grams of carbs to 2 grams of fiber (11:1).

I like them both, but given the choice, I’ll take the first loaf, the one with the better ratio.

It’s a small difference, but in large part, our health at retirement age will reflect the cumulative result of good choices made day by day, maybe mouthful by mouthful.  

SOURCE:  University of CA, Berkeley Wellness Letter, April, 2013        Study published in Public Health Nutrition


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