There is such a thing as the Whole Grains Council! In 2004 this Council approved what follows as the official definition of whole grains:
Whole grains or foods made from them contain all the essential parts and naturally-occurring nutrients of the entire grain seed in their original proportions. If the grain has been processed (e.g., cracked, crushed, rolled, extruded, and/or cooked), the food product should deliver the same rich balance of nutrients that are found in the original grain seed.
This definition means that 100% of the original kernel — all of the bran, germ, and endosperm — must be present to qualify as a whole grain.
The last part, the part in italics, is REALLY interesting. To me. I don’t know if the definition itself says that or if the Council goes on to say that. But thinking back to my definitions of WHOLE and of GRAIN (as the Perfect Food — see previous blog post The Perfect Food: GRAIN…is Perfect), what is implied is significant. If we follow the WHOLE concept, then ALL of each kernel of every grain has to be in our one loaf of bread or in our single bowl of oatmeal. That can only happen when we are cracking our own grain and milling our own flour and using all of it each time we prepare a dish. THAT would be realizing the essence and extension of WHOLE.
If we follow the quantification method, we only need to know that the count/balance of nutrients in a processed product is equal to the count/balance of nutrients as they are unprocessed. Processed foods get to hang their banners claiming ‘excellent’ and ‘complete’ nutritional compositions from just this kind of window (or maybe it’s a loophole). We get tricked into thinking that substitutions and additions are as good as, are the same as, and can make up for, what is lost in process.
If we follow the WHOLE concept, we have to think again. There is MORE to food than counting…calories, grams, proteins, carbs, sugars, salt, vitamins, minerals, etc. There is a scientifically unquantifiable aspect that I personally just cannot ignore. We share with the foods we eat. We share in WHOLE-ness. As we eat, our human individual life forces meet these organic, edible life forces, patterning and gathering strength and WHOLE-ness from them.
I know this is getting either very philosophical or very esoteric. But this little (read: BIG) concept is what inspires me every day every meal every food. Choosing our food, preparing our food, eating our meals. These are conscious and careful acts. Joyful and satisfying acts. Engendering and substantiating acts. We are living organisms. We sustain, increase and replace our numbers at the cellular level. The food we eat is the ‘stuff’ our cells get to work with to make us! We have hearts and minds as well as muscle and bone. How and what we eat become our spirit-heart-minds as well as our functioning structure.
So. Eating Whole Grain and Eating Grain Whole, at the centers of our meals, set the pattern and the tone for our life and our living cells. Preparing well and eating well will stack the decks in favor of a whole-and-health-filled life.
This topic is so much fun and has so formatted my life that I can go on and on. I’d love it if it inspires consideration and conversation in you. Let me know. Post your thoughts!