The Australian Dietary Guidelines recommends eating a wide variety of nutritious foods from the five food groups every day, including six serves of “Grain (cereal) foods, mostly wholegrain and/or high cereal fibre varieties…”.
This Guideline is based on the evidence that consumption of 3 serves of whole grain and/or high fibre foods per day is associated with reduced risk of weight gain, cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and colorectal cancer. This recommendation leaves room for refined grains, as part of a balanced diet. Refined grain foods are often an important part of some cultural traditions and social occasions.
This guideline is consistent with a recent review of the evidence between consumption of refined grains and health outcomes that shows consumption of up to 50% of all grain foods as refined foods (without high levels of added fat, sugar or sodium) is not associated with any increased disease risk.
Surveys indicate less than 30% of grains consumed in Australia are whole grain or high fibre. The word “mostly” in the new dietary recommendation therefore promotes a significant change in most people’s diets to increase levels of whole grain to greater than 50%. However, it recognises that it would be unrealistic to expect Australian to give up entirely many favourite foods including refined grain foods such as white bread, pasta or rice, which can still provide valuable nutrients in the diet.
The Australian Dietary Guidelines were informed by a detailed dietary modelling exercise to ensure diets meeting the guidelines were nutritionally adequate. While refined grains contain lower fibre, vitamin, mineral and phytonutrient content (approximately one third to one half) compared with whole grains, they can still contribute a range of nutrients within a balanced diet. For the smallest and least active individuals six serves of grains, including some refined grains can fit in a balanced diet without promoting over-consumption of energy.
GLNC supports the Australian Dietary Guidelines and recommends that Australians enjoy grains 3 – 4 times a day, choosing at least half as whole grains or high fibre. This leaves room for people to enjoy refined grain foods such as white rice and pasta which can be included in a balanced diet that provides all essential nutrients and protects against chronic disease. GLNC recommendation is that one meal per day of refined grain food is ok, within a balanced diet. Some refined grain foods have a naturally low glycemic index (GI) and these should be preferred, eg sourdough white bread, basmati rice and pasta.