Although the structures of the various cereal grains are different, there are some common features they all share:
- bran – the multi-layered outer skin of the grain which is rich in vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients and fibre.
- endosperm – the food supply for the germ, which is dense in starchy carbohydrates and protein.
- germ – the embryo, which contains the genetic material for a new plant, is abundant in essential fatty acids, vitamin E, B-group vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients.
The term ‘whole grain’ is used to describe an intact grain, flour or a food that contains all three parts of the grain. Processing grains does not necessarily produce ‘refined grains’ or exclude them from the Australian definition of a ‘whole grain’.
“the intact grain or the dehulled, ground, milled, cracked or flaked grain where the constituents – endosperm, germ and bran – are present in such proportions that represent the typical ratio of those fractions occurring in the whole cereal, and includes wholemeal.” (Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code)
Examples of foods made with whole grain or wholemeal ingredients include wholemeal and mixed-grain breads, rolls, wraps, flat breads and English muffins, whole grain breakfast cereals, wheat or oat flake breakfast biscuits, whole grain crispbreads, rolled oats, wholemeal pasta, brown rice, popcorn, bulghur (cracked wheat) and rice cakes.
Whole Grain Nutrition
Whole grains contain more than 26 nutrients and phytonutrients, which are bioactive substances thought to play a role in disease protection. Whole grains are low in fat and contain protein, dietary fibre (lignans, beta-glucan and soluble pentosans), vitamins (especially B-group vitamins and antioxidant Vitamin E), minerals (iron, zinc, magnesium and selenium) and many bioactive phytochemicals, including:
- Phytosterols – which have cholesterol-lowering properties.
- Sphingolipids – are associated with tumour control and maintenance of normal epithelia.
- Polyphenols and phenolics – such as hydroxycinnamic, ferulic, vanillic and p-coumaric acids, which have antioxidant properties.
- Carotenoids – such as alpha- and beta-carotene, lutein and zeaxanthin), which have antioxidant functions.
- Phytates – which may have a role in lowering glycaemic responses and reducing oxidation of cholesterol.
Whole Grains and Health
People who eat whole grain food regularly are 20 – 30% less likely to:
- Develop cardiovascular disease
- Gain weight over time
- Develop diabetes
More detailed information on the health attributes of whole grains can be found in the section – ‘Grains and Health’.
Choosing Whole Grain Foods
Tips to choosing foods higher in whole grain:
- Look for the claims ‘high in whole grain’ or ‘very high in whole grain’ (download a list of products containing these claims here), OR
- Check the ingredient list for foods with a higher percentage whole grain, OR
- Choose foods that have the whole grain Daily Target Intake (DTI) statement on pack.
To search a list of your favourite whole grain products, click here.
Identifying Whole Grains
When checking to see if a food contains whole grain ingredients look for these words in the ingredient list:
|Words in Ingredient List||Is this Whole Grain?|
|whole grain [name of grain]
whole wheat / whole [name of grain]
stoneground whole [name of grain]
brown, wild, black, purple or red rice
sprouted whole grain
malted whole grain
sorghum, quinoa, buckwheat, teff, amaranth, bulghur, fonio
|Yes, these are whole grain|
|wheat or wheat flour
|No, these are usually not whole grain|
legumes such as soy bean, lupin, lentils etc.
seeds like chia, linseed, sesame seed etc.
|No, these are not whole grain|