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Ask Tufts Experts May 2011 Issue

Q: After reading the list of whole grain foods and refined grain foods in your “Whole Grains Battle Dangerous Belly Fat” article (February 2011 Healthletter), I am hopelessly confused. Why if pasta is made with whole grain flour, crackers are made with 100% whole wheat flour, pancakes are made from buckwheat, are they considered “refined” grains?

Answer :  The lead researcher on that study, Nicola McKeown, PhD, a scientist in Tufts’ HNRCA Nutritional Epidemiology Program and program director of Nutrition Epidemiology at the Friedman School, explains, “In the case of these foods, while you can get whole-grain alternatives, the assumption is that most people are in fact eating refined grains. Unfortunately, our food-frequency questionnaire did not specifically ask about whole wheat pasta and buckwheat pancakes. With respect to crackers, many are made from refined grains and our assumption is that these would be categorized as refined grains. As you know, most crackers, pancakes and pasta are not whole-wheat.”

So, no, you aren’t actually hopelessly confused, but rather grasp the nutritional advice suggested by this study quite well: Aim to eat more whole grains and fewer refined grains. When shopping or cooking foods typically made from refined grains, such as pasta, pancakes or crackers, opt for whole grains such as whole wheat and buckwheat whenever possible.

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