The world is facing a simple but major wholegrain problem: we just aren’t eating enough.
Landmark research published in The Lancet earlier this year shows that a low intake of wholegrains is the second greatest dietary risk factor for mortality, globally.
The consequence is that people throughout the world, including Australia, are falling short of receiving the health benefits of grains, like dietary fibre, key vitamins and minerals.
The Australian Dietary Guidelines recommend that at least 66 per cent of grain products should be wholegrain and/or higher fibre varieties. Yet, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, on a given day in 2011-12, around 33 per cent of all grain foods consumed by Australians were wholegrain or high fibre products.
“In general in Australia, we probably think of grains as just being made from wheat. But wholegrains are a bit like fruit and vegetables in that there are so many international varieties offering different nutrients."
Why are wholegrains important to our health?
A wholegrain is a grain of any cereal and pseudocereal that is presented whole. That means it contains the endosperm, germ and bran, and in doing so confers the nutritional benefits associated with the three layers of the grain. In comparison, refined grains only retain the endosperm.
“Eating wholegrains also protects against weight gain, cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and bowel cancer – more great reasons to make the swap from refined to wholegrain foods,” Grains and Legumes Nutrition Council nutrition manager, Felicity Curtain, says.
The fact is wholegrains are often misunderstood. Curtain believes that most Australians aren’t aware of the nutritional value they can offer and the wide range of grains that are available.
“In general in Australia, we probably think of grains as just being made from wheat,” Curtain tells SBS. “But wholegrains are a bit like fruit and vegetables in that there are so many international varieties offering different nutrients.
“So it’s almost not enough to say ‘choose wholegrains’ because it’s important that you choose a wide variety of wholegrains.”
So what wholegrains should we eat? Curtain recommends the following seven wholegrains.