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What is a grain?

A Grain is the fruit or seed of cereal grasses. The natural (unprocessed) kernel of grain consists of the germ which is surrounded by the endosperm and bran and covered by the hull. You won't find fields of wheat or corn in the wild as we know them because they never existed and cannot exist in the wild.

The grains we use for food exist today, as we know them, because of a process called neoteny. Neoteny is the retention of juvenile characteristics in the adults of a species and is acquired through gene mutation/selection.

As a result of human manipulation (selection for those grains that didn't mature) the grain doesn't drop it's seed (the whole grain) but instead retains it. Unable to reseed itself the grain would cease to exist without human intervention.

Grains today are milled; bran ¹, ², and germ, which contains 90% of the nutrients of the kernel, are removed leaving only the endosperm (starch). The starch is ground further into different sizes for different products. The result is nutritionally deficient refined flour.

In the U.S., products containing whole grains must indicate on the label that they contain: "WHOLE WHEAT FLOUR" OR "WHOLE GRAIN FLOUR" . Products labeled "7 Grain", "12 Grain", Bran, Rye, etc. usually are made from "refined" and not "whole grain flour".

Since refined cereal products have had the bran removed, you need to eat whole- grain products if you want to reap the health benefits of bran. Grains can also provide protein; they provide almost half (47%) of the dietary protein needs of the world population (1). The percentage is much lower in the United States, where 90% of the edible plant protein is fed to animals. Although no individual grain provides the full complement of essential amino acids (protein building-blocks), the combination of grain foods with a reasonable variety of other foods such as beans can be a complete protein source. This is true even for people who don't eat meat or dairy foods.
¹ bran: Wheat bran has water-insoluble fibers (not easily dissolved) which, studies suggest, contributes to regularity, helps prevent diverticular disease and contributes to a decreased risk for bowel cancer.
²          Oat bran and barley contain water-soluble fibers that have been shown to lower blood cholesterol and blood glucose levels, which helps in the prevention and management of cardiovascular disease and diabetes.


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