As the prevalence of low-carb and gluten-free diets grew, grains and grain-made foods got a bad rap too. Not all foods made from grains are equal. Knowing how to cut through the uncertainty is crucial, and choosing the grains that are best for you.

Choosing whole grains more often than not in place of refined, processed grains can help increase the overall quality of your diet plan. When we eat whole grains, we get all aspects of the grain like the bran, germ, and endosperm. The flour used to produce foods such as white pasta and bread pass through a process of grinding that eliminates bran and germ, stripping the flour of vital nutrients and fiber.

So how do we pick food containing whole grains? A new study published in Public Health Nutrition showed that respondents have trouble recognizing healthy whole grain choices. In reality, food producers use marketing words such as "contains whole grains," "multigrain," and "honey wheat," which may be confusing and even deceptive. These labels can make grain foods look healthier than they really are.

If a product is branded on the front of the box as "100% whole grain," you can count on it to be a whole grain food and thus a healthy choice. Many other words on food packaging are used to describe grains that do not contain the word "whole" like "seven-grain," "wheat," and "sprouted grain." These words also make the item sound nutritious without providing a whole-grain item.

A product marked "made with whole grains" may have a refined, processed flour as the main ingredient; therefore the whole grain ingredient will not be sufficiently vital to optimize the product's nutritional value.

Read the list of ingredients and search for the first ingredient of a whole grain such as whole wheat, whole oats, or brown rice. Keep clear of products that list wheat flour-enriched as one of the top three ingredients, as this is another term for refined white flour.

The nutrition facts label on the packaging of foods also serves as a clue, in addition to the ingredients list and the front of package labels. A good indicator of whole grains is fiber content, which is typically found in whole grain foods, whereas refined and processed grains are not a good source.

Pick out products that at least have 3 grams of fiber per serving. Products that are excellent sources of fiber provide 5 grams of fiber or more per serving. Tortillas, cereals, pasta, bread, and other grain-based products that have less than 3 grams.