Whole grain foods contain all the nutritious elements of the grain. The grain can be milled into flower and still be considered a whole grain as long as all parts of the grain go into the final product. Organic whole grain is grown without any chemical pesticides or chemical fertilizers. Chemical fertilizers and pesticides have been linked to health and environmental problems, so selecting organic whole grains is way to eat healthy while helping to protect the environment.
Grains are nutritious seeds produced by grass plants. Each grain or seed has three main components: the outer husk, the endosperm and the germ. Together, these three elements provide roughage, starch and protein as well as vitamins and minerals.
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The husk provides the roughage found in whole grains while the germ houses the vitamins and proteins. The bulk of the grain is found in the endosperm. This is the starchy element that makes up the bulk of most grain-based products. It is important, but it is also the least nutritious part. Refined grains and grain-based products contain only the starchy endosperm.
Traditionally, all parts of the grain were used. As people developed ways to refine and separate different parts of the grains, some perceived benefits to refining became apparent. Without the rough outer husk, refined grains are lighter in texture and color, for instance. Removing the perishable germ extends the shelf life as well. These assets make refined grains popular with consumers and producers.
Refining comes with a price, however. Refined grains contain high amounts of carbohydrates while containing little fiber, protein or vitamins. Organic whole grain and conventional whole grain products contain all parts of the grain, making them a source of well-rounded nutrition. With the increasing awareness around food and health, the more nutritious whole grains are making a comeback, though they are coarser, heavier and more perishable.
Organic whole grain products have all the healthy elements of conventionally grown whole grains, but with added benefits: organic growing methods do not use chemicals during the growing process. Only natural fertilizers and pesticides are used when growing organic whole grain. Suitable organic fertilizers include bone meal, fish meal and manure. Pesticides are either in the form of beneficial insects, predatory insects that eat crop-destroying insects, or natural plant-based products that deter and prevent insect damage.
Chemical pesticides use in farming practices have been linked to health and environmental problems. Toxic chemical fertilizers and pesticides seep into water systems through soil, endangering both human and environmental health. Trace chemicals are also commonly found in non-organic foods that then make their way into the body. As such, organic whole grain products generally are a healthier choice for the body and the environment.