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Whole grains, refined grains, and enriched grains—what’s the difference?

field of whole grains

Before the days of over-processed, nutrient-deprived wheat, people relied on whole grain foods for the nourishment necessary to navigate life on the frontier. At Kodiak Cakes, we work to restore this tradition for today’s fast-paced lifestyles by making the use of whole grains a central part of what we do. Using only freshly ground whole grains in all of our products allows us to craft healthier foods that will power you through your most demanding days.

What Exactly Are Whole Grains?

According to the Whole Grains Council, a grain is considered “whole” if it contains all three original parts—the bran, germ, and endosperm—in their same original growth proportions. Let’s break each part down:

anatomy of whole grains
  • Bran: The edible, multi-layered kernel that’s rich in antioxidants, B vitamins, and fiber.
  • Germ: The embryo of the grain that contains B vitamins, some protein, minerals, and healthy fats.
  • Endosperm: The largest portion of the grain that contains carbohydrates, proteins, and small amounts of vitamins and minerals. The endosperm also provides essential energy to the germ, acting as its food source.

What Are Refined & Enriched Grains?

Whole grains become refined or enriched when one or more parts of the grain have been removed. Nutrition expert and registered dietitian Jenna Gorham says, “Refined grains are processed to remove the germ and bran part of the grain. They do this to get a softer texture and to expand the shelf life, but it actually removes quite a bit of nutrients.” For example, when the bran and the germ are removed from a whole grain during refinement, roughly 25% of the protein naturally occurring in the grain is removed. Nutrients can be added back into a grain, creating an enriched grain. However, an enriched grain will contain less than half of the nutrients removed during refinement.

Why You Should Choose Whole Grains

Simply put, you should choose whole grain foods over refined grain foods because refined grains are stripped of important nutrients during the refining process that our bodies use to function at our best. Gorham says, “The bran and germ offer good sources of fiber, B vitamins, vitamin E, magnesium, iron, zinc, and protein. Whole grains are left intact and offer a bigger nutritional bang for your buck.”

kodiak cakes buttermilk power cakes in field of whole grains
graph of whole grain flour vs white four

At Kodiak Cakes, we use whole grain wheat in our products for these exact reasons. In fact, using whole grains help us pack in more:

  • Vitamins: The B vitamins and vitamin E found in whole grains are vital to metabolism, help our bodies turn the food we eat into energy, and help fight off disease.
  • Minerals: Minerals like iron, magnesium, phosphorous, and zinc are found naturally in whole grains. They also help keep our body’s cells healthy.
  • Fiber: The dietary fiber found in whole grains is full of many digestive health benefits and helps keep us fuller for longer.
  • Protein: Protein is one of three macronutrients our bodies require to function properly. Protein builds and repairs muscle tissue and must be consumed regularly because it is the only macronutrient that cannot be stored as energy.

Apart from being the essential ingredient in our original Kodiak Cake Frontier Flapjacks, we use whole grains because they just taste better. Now that you know what you’re eating, go ahead and indulge in another pancake, because whole grains taste better!