The food industry has gone wild with whole grains – but, like school marms correcting homework, consumers still need to check a product’s nutrition label for clues to the true vitamin, protein and fiber content.

Don’t always expect full disclosure. Unless a product is made from 100 percent whole grain, the label might not tell you what percentage of whole grain it contains. Some manufacturers blend pre-milled and deconstructed flour, fiber and other nutrients into whole grain flour. This breakup and reassembly of the grain doesn’t always provide the benefits of whole, natural grain.

It helps to look at the order of ingredients on the label. By law, they are listed in descending order, with the highest-percentage ingredient first. Still, that won’t give you an exact measure.

Look also for the two whole grain stamps offered by the Whole Grains Council, a private, nonprofit group financed both by the federal government and the food industry:

– Products that offer only whole grains might have a 100 percent stamp, verifying that each package serving size contains a full serving of whole grains (16 grams) as defined by federal dietary guidelines issued in 2005. (Simply put, a serving might be a half-cup of cooked grain, an ounce of dry pasta or rice, a slice of bread or a cup of cereal flakes. Leading health organizations recommend three servings a day.)

– A second Whole Grains Council stamp, without the 100 percent symbol, designates half a whole grain serving within a serving size listed on the package.

With the glee of a law school graduate, the council also offers this list, online at wholegrainscouncil.org, explaining the words used on a nutrition label.

Here are words you want to see. They describe ingredients containing all parts of the grain, so you’re more likely to get the nutrients:

– any grain listed as “whole”

– any listed as a “stoneground whole” grain

– brown rice

– oats, oatmeal (including old-fashioned and instant)

– wheatberries

Here are words that should make you skeptical. They describe ingredients that may have parts of the grain missing and may not deliver the benefits of whole grains:

– wheat flour

– semolina

– durum wheat

– organic flour

– multigrain (might contain whole grains, refined flour or a mix of both).

Here are words that never describe whole grains:

– enriched flour

– degerminated (used with corn meal)

– bran

– wheat germ


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