Eating whole grains a healthy choice but picking right products could be way trickier

Whole grains and whole grain flours are made of the entire grain kernel, including the bran, germ and endosperm -- which is what makes it super-healthy.

Myupchar August 12, 2020 11:41:42 IST
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Eating whole grains a healthy choice but picking right products could be way trickier

Whether you’re trying to lose weight, eat healthy or reduce the risk of chronic disease, whole grains should be your choice. Nutritionists and multiple studies from across the world have underlined the fact that whole grains contain high amounts of dietary fibre (and therefore healthy carbohydrates), plant-proteins, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants which are great for your health.

A 2019 study published in the journal Nutrients showed that eating more whole grains might actually improve your body mass index and help with weight loss. Another, published in The Proceedings of the Nutrition Society in 2015, indicates that consuming less-refined whole grains and whole-grain products regularly can help stave off chronic diseases like cardiovascular disease, obesity, hypertension and even diabetes.

But maybe this is all easier said than done. A recent study shows that picking the right type of whole grain product from the market and then bringing it home to cook can be more difficult, or at least trickier.

Why picking whole grain products is tricky

Researchers at Tufts University’s Friedman School of Nutrition Science and New York University’s School of Global Public Health recently published the findings of their study on whole-grain product labels and how consumers find them confusing in Public Health Nutrition. The study asked 1,030 consumers to read the labels of hypothetical as well as real whole grain products in the market and pick the one which could provide them with the best benefits.

In both cases, the participants misunderstood the whole grain product labels and were unable to make the best choice as per their needs, primarily because the labels were misleading in facts. The researchers found that products marked “whole grain” did not disclose how much percentage of actual whole grains was used in the products as compared to the refined grain content used in it. The ones marked “multigrain” were more deceptive still because this label indicates that many types of grains were used to make the product, but doesn’t specify how much of which grain was used and whether the grain flour was refined or actually whole.

Knowing the difference is important because whole grains and whole grain flours are made of the entire grain kernel, including the bran, germ and endosperm -- which is what makes it super-healthy. Refined grain flours, on the other hand, consist of just the endosperm, which makes it less healthy. Manufacturers, as the study above indicates, could make you believe that a product has more whole grains than it actually does by improper labelling.

Tips to include more whole grains in your diet

While this study was based in the US, its findings are quite relevant for Indian consumers looking to eat healthy by introducing more whole grains to their diet. Labels and advertisements that scream “whole grain” and “multigrain” can be as misleading in this country as it is in the US. So, how can a consumer pick the right whole grain product? The following tips may help.

  • Don’t go by the colour or appearance of products assuming that bread, pasta and other foods that look brown, or have multiple grains sprinkled on top, are actually made of only whole grains. 
  • Don’t blindly buy products that read “whole grain” or “multigrain” in the label, but check for the actual ratio of whole grain versus refined flour.
  • Don’t go for foods that say “enriched” or “refined” with whole grains, because that is just another indication that the product is made of refined grains.
  • Check the label and only buy products that say “100% whole grain”. 

The easiest way out of this confusion, however, is this: Buy whole grains instead of whole-grain products like bread and pasta. Whole grains are as easy to wash and cook as rice is. Buying whole grains directly will ensure that you get enough whole grains in your diet, and even give you a better choice between which whole grains to choose from. Barley, quinoa, millets, oats, brown rice, wild rice, black rice and couscous are all easily available in their whole avatars in the market. So, why not go with the best?

For more information, read our article on Whole wheat or multigrain bread: Which is healthier?

Health articles in Firstpost are written by myUpchar.com, India’s first and biggest resource for verified medical information. At myUpchar, researchers and journalists work with doctors to bring you information on all things health.

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