Food Groups

Grains

The grain group includes foods made from wheat, rice, oats, cornmeal, barley or other cereal grains.  Grains that are common around the world, but not typically eaten in the U.S. include amaranth, millet, quinoa, sorghum and triticale. 

Examples of foods in the grain group are:

  • Breads, tortillas, pitas, and rolls
  • Bagels, muffins and biscuits
  • White, brown and wild rice
  • Pastas and couscous
  • Cold and hot cereals
  • Crackers, popcorn, and pretzels

Type of Grain

Whole Grain

Refined Grain

Bread

Whole wheat bread, whole grain bread, rye bread

White bread, wheat bread, cornbread, multigrain bread, pumpernickel, cracked wheat

Pita

Whole wheat pita bread

White pita bread

Tortillas

Whole grain tortilla

Corn tortillas, flour tortillas

Rice

Brown rice, wild rice

White rice, fried rice

Pasta

Whole wheat pasta

Regular pasta, couscous

Cereal

Bran, whole wheat cereal flakes, muesli, oatmeal

Corn flakes, grits

Snack foods

Whole wheat crackers, popcorn

Regular crackers, pretzels

Nutrition and Health

All grains contain carbohydrates, which are the body’s number one source of energy.  Grains can be separated into two groups: whole grains and refined grains.  Whole grains or “complex carbohydrates” contain fiber, magnesium, selenium, iron and many of the B vitamins.  Research has shown that eating foods that are high in fiber, like whole grains, can reduce your risk of heart disease, reduce constipation and can help you manage your weight.   Soluble fiber, which is found in oats, may help to lower your cholesterol and reduce your risk of heart disease.  Refined grains or “simple carbohydrates” are usually enriched with B vitamins, but typically lack fiber and are less nutritious than whole grains.  

Recommended Intake

The amount of grains you need depends on your age, gender, height, weight and activity level. 

Below are intakes for moderately active individuals by age*:

Women
 

2-3 years

3 ounces

4-8 years

4-5 ounces

 9-13 years

5 ounces

14-50 years

6 ounces

51+ years

5 ounces

Men

2-3 years

3 ounces

4-8 years

4-5 ounces

9-13 years

6 ounces

14-18 years

7 ounces

19-30 years

8 ounces

31-50 years

7 ounces

51+ years

6 ounces

 

 



 


*Individualized intakes can be found at www.mypyramid.gov  

Measuring Ounce Servings

One ounce from the grain group is equal to:

  • 1 slice of bread
  • 1 cup of ready-to-eat cereal
  • ½ cup of cooked rice, pasta or hot cereal
  • About 5 crackers
  • 3 cups of air-popped popcorn
  • 1 “mini” bagel
  • 1 small muffin, biscuit or piece of cornbread (about 2” diameter)

Making Healthy Choices

Because whole grains provide more nutrients and fiber than refined grains, try to choose at least half of your daily intake from whole grain sources.  Grains are naturally low in fat and sugar, but products such as muffins, biscuits and cornbread have fat and sugar added during processing.  Adding butter or cream cheese can add fat and calories, so use these condiments in moderation.  Try to choose cereals that are lower in sugar, and crackers that are lower in sodium.       

Tips for Choosing Whole Grains

When searching for grains at the grocery store, the Nutrition Facts Label and the Ingredients List can help determine whether a grain is refined or whole.

Grains are divided into 2 subgroups, whole grains and refined grains.

Whole grains contain the entire grain kernel -- the
bran, germ, and endosperm.


Examples include:

  • whole-wheat flour
  • bulgur (cracked wheat)
  • oatmeal
  • whole cornmeal
  • brown rice

Refined grains have been milled, a process that removes the bran and germ. This is done to give grains a finer texture and improve their shelf life, but it also removes dietary fiber, iron, and many B vitamins.

Some examples of refined grain products are:

  • white flour
  • degermed cornmeal
  • white bread
  • white rice

Most refined grains are enriched. This means certain B vitamins (thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, folic acid) and iron are added back after processing. Fiber is not added back to enriched grains. Check the ingredient list on refined grain products to make sure that the word “enriched” is included in the grain name. Some food products are made from mixtures of whole grains and refined grains.