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Grains

Grains

What foods are in the Grains Group?

Any food made from wheat, rice, oats, cornmeal, barley, or another cereal grain is a grain product. Bread, pasta, breakfast cereals, grits, and tortillas are examples of grain products. Foods such as popcorn, rice, and oatmeal are also included in the Grains Group. 

Grains are divided into 2 subgroups: Whole Grains and Refined Grains. Whole grains contain the entire grain kernel ― the bran, germ, and endosperm. Examples of whole grains include whole-wheat flour, bulgur (cracked wheat), oatmeal, whole cornmeal, and brown rice. Refined grains have been milled, a process that removes the bran and germ. This is done to give grains a finer texture and improve their shelf life, but it also removes dietary fiber, iron, and many B vitamins. Some examples of refined grain products are white flour, de-germed cornmeal, white bread, and white rice. 

Most refined grains are enriched. This means certain B vitamins (thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, folic acid) and iron are added back after processing. Fiber is not added back to enriched grains. Check the ingredient list on refined grain products to make sure that the word "enriched" is included in the grain name. Some food products are made from mixtures of whole grains and refined grains.

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How many grains are
needed daily?

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Why is it important to
eat grains?

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How many grain foods are needed daily?

The amount of grain foods you need to eat depends on your age, sex, and level of physical activity. The amount each person needs can vary between 3 and 8 ounce-equivalents each day -- at least half of the grains you eat should be whole grains. Those who are very physically active may need more. Recommended daily amounts are listed in the table below. Most Americans consume enough grains, but few are whole grains.

What counts as an ounce-equivalent (oz-equiv) of grains?

In general, 1 slice of bread, 1 cup of ready-to-eat cereal, or ½ cup of cooked rice, cooked pasta, or cooked cereal can be considered as 1 ounce-equivalent from the Grains Group. The table below lists specific amounts that count as 1 ounce-equivalent of grains towards your daily recommended intake. In some cases the number of ounce-equivalents for common portions are also shown.

More About the Grains Group

Note: Click on the top row to expand the table. If you are on a mobile device, you may need to turn your phone to see the full table.

*These amounts are appropriate for individuals who get less than 30 minutes per day of moderate physical activity, beyond normal daily activities. Those who are more physically active may be able to consume more while staying within calorie needs.

  Daily recommendation*
in ounce-equivalents (oz-equiv)
Daily minimum amount of whole grains in ounce-equivalents (oz-equiv)
Children 2-3 yrs
4-8 yrs
3 oz-equiv
5 oz-equiv
1½ oz-equiv
2½ oz-equiv
Girls 9-13 yrs
14-18 yrs
5 oz-equiv
6 oz-equiv
3 oz-equiv
3 oz-equiv
Boys 9-13 yrs
14-18 yrs
6 oz-equiv
8 oz-equiv
3 oz-equiv
4 oz-equiv
Women 19-30 yrs
31-50 yrs
51+ yrs
6 oz-equiv
6 oz-equiv
5 oz-equiv
3 oz-equiv
3 oz-equiv
3 oz-equiv
Men 19-30 yrs
31-50 yrs
51+ yrs
8 oz-equiv
7 oz-equiv
6 oz-equiv
4 oz-equiv
3½ oz-equiv
3 oz-equiv

*WG = whole grains, RG = refined grains. This is shown when products are available both in whole grain and refined grain forms.

  Amount that counts as 1 ounce-equivalent (oz-equiv) of grains Common portions and ounce-equivalents (oz-equiv)
Bagels

WG**: whole wheat

RG**: plain, egg

1" mini bagel 1 large bagel = 4 oz-equiv
Biscuits (baking powder/buttermilk -RG*) 1 small (2" diameter) 1 large (3" diameter) = 2 oz-equiv
Breads

WG**: 100% Whole Wheat

RG**: white, wheat, French, sourdough

1 regular slice

1 small slice, French

4 snack-size slices rye bread

2 regular slices = 2 oz-equiv
Bulgur cracked wheat (WG**) ½ cup, cooked  
Cornbread (RG**) 1 small piece (2½" x 1¼" x 1¼") 1 medium piece (2½" x 2½" x 1¼") = 2 oz-equiv
Crackers

WG**: 100% whole wheat, rye

RG**: saltines, snack crackers

5 whole wheat crackers

2 rye crisp breads

7 square or round crackers

 
English muffins

WG**: whole wheat

RG**: plain, raisin

½ muffin 1 muffin = 2 oz-equiv
Muffins

WG**: whole wheat

RG**: bran, corn, plain

1 small (2½" diameter) 1 large (3½" diameter) = 3 oz-equiv
Oatmeal (WG**)

½ cup, cooked

1 packet instant

1 ounce (⅓ cup), dry (regular or quick)

 
Pancakes

WG**: Whole wheat, buckwheat

RG**: buttermilk, plain

1 pancake (4½" diameter)

2 small pancakes (3" diameter)

3 pancakes (4½" diameter) = 3 oz-equiv
Popcorn (WG**) 3 cups, popped 1 mini microwave bag or 100-calorie bag, popped = 2 oz-equiv
Ready-to-eat breakfast cereal

WG**: toasted oat, whole wheat flakes

RG**: corn flakes, puffed rice

1 cup, flakes or rounds

1¼ cup, puffed

 
Rice

WG*: brown, wild

RG*: enriched, white, polished

½ cup cooked

1 ounce, dry

1 cup, cooked = 2 oz-equiv
Pasta-- spaghetti, macaroni, noodles

WG**: whole wheat

RG**: enriched, durum

½ cup, cooked

1 ounce, dry

1 cup, cooked = 2 oz-equiv
Tortillas

WG**: whole wheat, whole grain corn

RG**: Flour, corn

1 small flour tortilla (6" diameter)

1 corn tortilla (6" diameter)

1 large tortilla (12" diameter) = 4 oz-equiv

Why is it important to eat grains, especially whole grains?

Eating grains, especially whole grains, provides health benefits. People who eat whole grains as part of a healthy diet have a reduced risk of some chronic diseases. Grains provide many nutrients that are vital for the health and maintenance of our bodies.

Nutrients

Grains are important sources of many nutrients, including complex carbohydrates, dietary fiber, several B vitamins (thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, and folate), and minerals (iron, magnesium, and selenium).

Nutrients

Dietary fiber from whole grains or other foods, may help reduce blood cholesterol levels and may lower risk of heart disease, obesity, and type 2 diabetes. Fiber is important for proper bowel function. It helps reduce constipation and diverticulosis. Fiber-containing foods such as whole grains help provide a feeling of fullness with fewer calories.

Nutrients

The B vitamins thiamin, riboflavin, and niacin play a key role in metabolism — they help the body release energy from protein, fat, and carbohydrates. B vitamins are also essential for a healthy nervous system. Many refined grains are enriched with these B vitamins.

Nutrients

Folate (folic acid), another B vitamin, helps the body form red blood cells. Women of childbearing age who may become pregnant should consume adequate folate from foods, and in addition 400 mcg of synthetic folic acid from fortified foods or supplements. This reduces the risk of neural tube defects, spina bifida, and anencephaly during fetal development.

Nutrients

Iron is used to carry oxygen in the blood. Many teenage girls and women in their childbearing years have iron-deficiency anemia. They should eat foods high in heme-iron (meats) or eat other iron containing foods along with foods rich in vitamin C, which can improve absorption of non-heme iron. Whole and enriched refined grain products are major sources of non-heme iron in American diets.

Nutrients

Whole grains are sources of magnesium and selenium. Magnesium is a mineral used in building bones and releasing energy from muscles. Selenium protects cells from oxidation. It is also important for a healthy immune system.

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Health Benefits

  • Consuming whole grains as part of a healthy diet may reduce the risk of heart disease.
  • Consuming whole grain foods that contain fiber, as part of an overall healthy diet, can support healthy digestion.
  • Eating whole grains, as part of an overall healthy diet, may help with weight management.
  • Eating grain products fortified with folate helps prevent neural tube defects when consumed as part of an overall healthy diet before and during pregnancy.
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MyPlate.gov is based on the
Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020-2025

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