When you mention the word ‘wholegrain’, most people might imagine an image of a wholly intact grain, with its high fibre bran, starchy endosperm and nutrient-rich germ. But then the word “wholegrain” is appearing on a range of packaged foods too. So can whole grains really exist out of their natural form?
According to the Australian and New Zealand Food Standards Code, a wholegrain must consist of: The intact grain or the dehulled, ground, milled, cracked or flaked grain where the constituents – endosperm, germ and bran – are present in such proportions that represent the typical ratio of those fractions occurring in the whole cereal and includes wholemeal.
“Whole grains” can actually be in processed foods too, they just have to have the correct ratio of endosperm, bran and germ.
There is mounting debate over the benefits of grains in the diet, especially in the Paleo and low-carb diet worlds. But recent research seems to suggest that consuming grains (especially whole grains) may have some very beneficial effects.Fardet A, Boirie Y. Associations between food and beverage groups and major diet-related chronic diseases: an exhaustive review of pooled/meta-analyses and systematic reviews. Nutr Rev. 2014;72(12):741-62.
Benefits of wholegrains
There is strong evidence that the consumption of whole grains can have various benefits. This includes a reduced risk of Type 2 Diabetes, heart disease, some cancers and obesity.
In terms of macronutrients, what gives whole grains the advantage over their refined counterparts is that they are high in fibre, nutrient dense and contain protective phytonutrients. Wholegrains also tend to have a low glycaemic index (GI) and by including them as part of a balanced diet, it can help lower the overall GI.
Whole grains have also been found to contain phytochemicals; bioactive, non-nutrient compounds, that have recently been found to be associated with a reduced risk of some chronic diseases. The most important groups of phytochemicals found in whole grains include: phenolics (phenolic acids, alkylresorcinols and flavonoids), carotenoids, vitamin E, γ-oryzanols, dietary fiber and β-glucan.Okarter N, Liu RH. Health Benefits of Whole Grain Phytochemicals. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2010 2010/03/08;50(3):193-208.
These phytochemicals have been found to be associated with the prevention of chronic diseases. For example, carotenoids such as lutein, zeazanthin and β-cryptoxanthin; are known to scavenge free radicals and hence prevent oxidation and damage. Furthermore, there has been some investigation regarding the relationship between dietary carotenoid consumption and risk of colorectal damage.Okarter N, Liu RH. Health Benefits of Whole Grain Phytochemicals. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2010 2010/03/08;50(3):193-208.
Whole grains have also been found to contain phytosterols, which can play a role in reducing cholesterol and an abundance of insoluble fibre – a micronutrient that has been found to have positive effects on gut bacteria and gut health.
How can you include more whole grains in your diet?
So how can you include more of these cheap and delicious “superfoods” in your diet? Here are a few simple tips:
- When buying packaged foods, opt for those higher in wholegrains – foods that contain wholegrains can be labelled as “contains wholegrains”, “high in wholegrains” or “very high in wholegrains”. Try and opt for foods that are labelled as very high in wholegrains” as these contain the largest amounts.
- Look for the percentage wholegrain in the ingredient list – remember, the higher the number the better.
- When choosing breakfast cereals and other packaged foods, consider other nutrients such as energy, sugar, fat, saturated fat, sodium and fibre, as well as looking at the wholegrain content.
- Swap refined grains (eg. white rice), for a wholegrain alternative (eg. wild rice)
- Wholegrains such as rolled oats and quinoa can be used to make a quick and delicious porridge, without the added sugars and sodium.
If you would like more information about whole grains the Grains and Legumes Nutrition Council has some great resources, or the Whole Grains Council provides a complete list of Whole Grains A-Z. If you would like to make some changes to your diet in incorporate more whole grains into your diet, please speak to an Accredited Practicing Dietitian
A few of our favourite wholegrain recipies:
Grilled Fennel, Qunioa & Pea Salad with Fennel Frond Pesto – Dishing Up The Dirt
Boiled Egg & Barley Salad – Apples Under My Bed
Wild Rice and Feta Salad – BBC Good Food
References [ + ]
|1.||⇪||Fardet A, Boirie Y. Associations between food and beverage groups and major diet-related chronic diseases: an exhaustive review of pooled/meta-analyses and systematic reviews. Nutr Rev. 2014;72(12):741-62.|
|2.||⇪ab||Okarter N, Liu RH. Health Benefits of Whole Grain Phytochemicals. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2010 2010/03/08;50(3):193-208.|