Grains and Nutrition

Grains and grain foods are staples in the diets of cultures around the world, and have made an important contribution to daily nutrient requirements since cultivation began around 10,000BC. Their consumption is encouraged in dietary guidelines both in Australia and around the world for the significant contribution these foods make to nutrient intakes.

Grains are high in carbohydrate, low in fat, good sources of protein and provide varying amounts of fibre, vitamins and minerals. The nutritional composition of grains may vary depending on the variety and environmental growing conditions. The protein content of wheat is higher, on average, than that of other grains.

Grain foods both whole grain and refined make an important contribution to the nutrient intakes of Australians. Grain foods are the leading contributors of seven key nutrients in the Australian diet – fibre, iron, magnesium, iodine, carbohydrates and B-group vitamins including folate and thiamin. The Australian Dietary Guidelines list significant nutrients for grain foods as including carbohydrate, protein, iron, dietary fibre, iodine, magnesium, zinc, the B-group vitamins, thiamin, folate, riboflavin and niacin as well as vitamin E. Pseudo-cereals contain similar amounts of these nutrients as grains so are commonly considered as whole grains.

In comparison, oilseeds such as chia seeds are nutritionally different to grains and are not considered grains or whole grains. They have a higher oil content and lower carbohydrate content than grains. Also, seeds including chia contain very little of the B-group vitamins and minerals that are listed as significant nutrients in grains.

GLNC recommends Australians enjoy grain foods 3 – 4 times a day, choosing at least half as whole grain or high fibre.

A table comparing the nutrient content of different types of grains can be downloaded here.

For more information on grains and nutrition check these links: