Whole grains are more nutritious than refined grains because nutrients have not been lost in processing. Some nutrients have been added back to refined grains, but often not all the nutrients which were lost are added back.
Because whole grains use the entire grain, they have far more nutrients than processed grains, and are also higher in fiber. A high fiber diet can reduce the risk of cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and intestinal problems. The vital balance of nutrients found in whole grains also supports immune system health, and supplies the body with necessary vitamins and minerals. Many refined grain foods are actually supplemented to make up for the loss in nutrition caused by the removal of the bran and germ.
Many consumers have noted that whole grains tend to be darker. This is because they are not processed with chemicals like bleach, as some refined products are, and because the bran is dark in color. Whole grains are also less shelf stable than refined products, because they contain more oil, which can go rancid if the grains are not properly cared for; whole grains should be kept refrigerated until use to prevent them from going bad.
Integrating more whole grains into the human diet is relatively easy. They are available in whole, cracked, or ground form for various uses including breads, side dishes, and breakfast foods. Cooking whole grains tends to take longer because of the protective bran, and for consumers who do not have adequate cooking time, a number of companies sell packaged whole grain products like bread, tortillas, par-broiled rice, quick cooking quinoa, and other grains. Make sure to read the packaging on these items, and try to avoid products which do not list whole grains as the first ingredient.
Research shows that the consumption of whole grains provides added health benefits. Compounds called phytochemicals are present in the whole grain and phytochemicals are thought to reduce risk of certain chronic diseases, like heart disease and cancer.
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Whole grain foods are usually dry or gritty