Ask the Dietitian with Melissa Altman-Traub, RD
1. I've heard mixed messages about carbohydrates and grains. Which ones are the healthiest?
Here are some tips to help you choose healthy grains:
- Focus on the ingredient list. Look for 100% whole wheat or whole grain as the source of grain in the food, as it will contain the most fiber and nutrients.
- Recognize key words. Enriched is not the same as whole grain. If you see the word "enriched" before white or wheat flour on an ingredient list it means that the whole grain has been broken down but that nutrients were added back in during processing. Foods that have enriched wheat as the first ingredient are multigrain and contain less of the more nutritious whole grain. For more information about enriched grains, check out this guide.
- Don't judge a bread by its color. Breads may appear dark in color but have enriched wheat as the main ingredient. Often darker bread color is actually from molasses or caramel color.
- Compare and contrast. Look at nutrition labels and ingredient lists side by side.
As you can see from this graph, whole wheat bread contains much more of some nutrients than enriched white bread. Magnesium, potassium and phosphorus are shown, but fiber, and zinc are also found in greater amounts in whole wheat bread.
2. What types of grains should I eat for optimal kidney health?
To prevent kidney disease, especially you have diabetes or high blood pressure, choose whole grain foods for extra fiber. This can help you feel full while also maintaining weight control, and possibly blood sugar control. If you have kidney disease, check with your health care provider regarding the need to limit potassium and/or phosphorus in your diet. If so, limit whole grain foods.