Whole grains are healthier than refined grains because they contain the whole shebang – bran, germ, and endosperm, and all the iron, fiber, and vitamins within them – while refined grains are just the endosperm, which has far fewer nutrients. Because refined grains have a finer texture and longer shelf life, many food manufacturers put them in products, and in many cases you can't tell by taste, feel, or appearance. For instance, white breads and pastas can be dyed darker to look like they're made with whole wheat when they're actually not, and some truly whole-grain cereals have so many other ingredients that the grainy texture gets lost. To find foods that have at least eight grams of whole grains (or half a serving; the government recommends three servings per day), look for the Whole Grain stamp. This seal doesn't guarantee an item is a healthful choice necessarily, but it's a quick way to tell whether you're getting all the health benefits of whole grains.
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