Whole grains are the seed or kernel of plants that store nutrients important in our diet, and have been shown to have positive health benefits.
Whole grains contain all 3 components of the grain kernel:
- Bran (outer layer) contains fibre, some vitamins, trace elements and phytochemicals
- Germ (middle layer) contains protein, fats, vitamins, trace minerals, some phytochemicals and antioxidants
- Endosperm (inner layer) contains carbohydrates, proteins and some vitamins
Why are they important?
Whole grains are important sources of beneficial nutrients like protein, fibre, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals. The health benefits associated with eating whole grains were initially attributed to the fibre content.
Research now suggests that it is the complete package of vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals and fibre that is responsible for its health benefits. Studies show that regular intake of whole grains can help to protect against a number of diseases such as coronary heart disease, and also appears to lower the risk of certain types of cancer.
What are ‘Wholegrains’ foods?
Foods must contain 51% by weight of any combination of whole grains to be able to use the term “whole grain”. Rye, wheat, rice, barley, oats and corn (maize) are types of whole grains found in a range of everyday foods, particularly in breads and cereals. Whole grains may be whole or processed. Even if the grain has been cracked, crushed, ground or extruded, made into flour, bread or cereal, it can still be called “whole grain” as long as it contains the same relative proportions of bran, germ and endosperm before processing.
How to include more whole grains in your daily diet
When choosing whole grain products, keep in mind that the greater the percentage of whole grains in a food, the greater the health benefits it provides. You can increase your intake of whole grain by these simple measures:
- Choose whole grain or wholemeal breads instead of white bread
- Serve meals with brown rice, wholemeal pasta
- Snack on unbuttered popcorn and whole grain crackers
- Choose breakfast cereals that contain whole grains,like whole wheat breads, muesli, oats, etc
- Include corn kernels or corn-on-the-cob with a meal
- Add oats to muffins, cup cakes, crumbles etc
- Choose grain products that are lower in fat, sugar or salt
- Add whole grains to your snacks: brown bread / multi-grain bread in sandwiches, multi-grain flour wrap for veggie wraps, toasted oats to chaats / salads, etc
- Read the label on food packages to find out if the first ingredient listed is whole grain