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75% of Australians are not eating enough whole grains

According to preliminary results of a nationally representative survey conducted by GLNC the majority of Australians, 75 per cent, may be putting their health at risk by not eating the recommended amount of whole grains each day.(1)
Whole grain foods such as whole grain breads, breakfast cereals, crispbreads and intact whole grains (i.e. oats, brown rice) are significant contributors to dietary fibre, vitamin and mineral intake in the Australian diet.(2)
As nutritious foods the Australians Dietary Guidelines (ADG)(3) encourage Australians ‘to enjoy a variety of grain foods each day, mostly whole grain or high cereal fibre varieties’. In addition, GLNC encourages Australians to aim to meet the whole grain Daily Target Intake (DTI) which is 48 grams each day for adults. These recommendations are underpinned by the significant nutrition contribution whole grain foods make within a balanced diet and the body of scientific evidence which shows that three or more serves of whole grain foods each day is linked with a reduced risk of heart, diabetes, bowel cancer and weight gain.(3, 4)
To compare Australians’ whole grain intakes with current dietary recommendation the 2014 Australian Grains and Legumes Consumption and Attitudinal Study(1), due for full release in October, investigated the eating habits of 3,031 Australians aged 2 to 70 years. The survey reported the daily serves of whole grain foods of Australians and for the first time also reported daily grams of whole grain intakes.
This recent survey found that 3 in 4 Australians are not consuming three or more serves of whole grain foods each day, and so are not meeting ADG whole grain recommendations or their respective whole grain DTI. Of particular concern is that this is driven by a large proportion of the population (over 40% of adults and over 50% of children) who are eating less than one serve or zero serves of whole grain foods each day. In addition, overall daily consumption of whole grain for Australian adult’s foods has declined since 2011. Clearly there is room for Australians to improve grain food choices to meet whole grain recommendation and reduce risk of disease.
While this survey found that most Australians are aware that the whole grain content in food varies(1), one key reason which may be influencing Australians whole grain intake is that it can be hard for consumers to identify and choose better quality whole grain foods due to inconsistent labelling. As such it is clear there is a need for greater awareness of the nutritional benefits of grain foods accompanied with an industry standard to help people better understand the whole grain content in foods, and ultimately to make better food choices when filling their supermarket trolleys.
To support national dietary recommendations and to set the record straight about foods labelled as whole grain, the Grains & Legumes Nutrition Council (GLNC) is collaborating with the Australian food industry to roll out the voluntary Code of Practice for Whole Grain Ingredient Content Claims.
Until recently there has been no industry standard for how whole grain content of foods were defined and so for the first time consumers will begin to see consistent descriptions on foods labelled as whole grain – and can choose better products that say ‘contains’, ‘high’ or ‘very high’ in whole grain. This new industry standard will help people identify which foods actually contain a significant or higher amount of whole grain.
To date twelve major food companies have already signed up to GLNC’s Code of Practice to align their labelling of whole grain products with the new standard. Current Registered Users of the Code include a range of grain food manufacturers:  Bakers Delight, Cereal Partners Worldwide/Nestle, Continental Biscuit Manufacturers, General Mills, George Weston Foods, Goodman Fielder, Griffins Foods, Mondelez International, Sanitarium Health & Wellbeing Australia, Sanitarium Health & Wellbeing New Zealand, Tucker’s Natural, Woolworths.
References:
  1. GLNC. 2014 Australian Grains and Legumes Consumption and Attitudinal Report. Unpublished: 2014.
  2. ABS. Australian Health Survey: Nutrition First Results – Foods and Nutrients, 2011-12. Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2014.
  3. NHMRC. Australian Dietary Guidelines Providing the scientific evidence for healthier Australian diets. 2013 Accessed online January 2014.
  4. Griffiths T. Towards an Australian ‘daily target intake’ for wholegrains. Food Australia. 2007.

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