Whole Grain for Health

Jul 31, 2023Aeran Schmid

Grains have gotten a bit of a bad rap lately, but there are many reasons to be choosing the whole grain for your health! Grains where designed by nature to be consumed whole for several reasons. The whole grain contains the bran, germ, and endosperm. Each layer is important and contains specific nutrients.

Back in the pioneer days we ground our own flour and consumed the whole grains. Modern technology has made food very convenient, but hasn’t always kept nutrition as a priority. Refined white flour is primarily made of the endosperm and is missing the germ and bran layers. This is unfortunate because the bran and germ layers are nutritional powerhouses! Don’t leave them out of your diet!  

How do I know if I am eating whole grains?

Any food product carrying the Whole Grain claim must be made from the whole kernel of a grain and be minimally processed. Products like rolled oats or cracked wheat qualify for the whole grain claim because as stated by Canadian regulations “most of their nutritive value is retained”. However, puffed wheat or puffed rice cereal cannot carry the whole grain claim because of the extensive processing that is required to puff the grain. Choosing whole grains means picking food products that are minimally processed and look like whole grains. 


Whole Grain Refined Grain
Whole Grain Flour White Flour
Hulled barley Pearled barley
Wild Rice White rice
Rolled Oats Puffed Wheat

Don’t be fooled by Multi-Grain Claims

Multi-grain, such a beautiful term, but multi-grain doesn’t mean whole grain. In fact to meet labelling regulations in Canada, multi-grain products just need to contain two different grains at 2% or more. These grains can be refined grains and do not have to be a whole grain. Some multi-grain products can be quite healthy, but just know multi-grain does not mean whole grain.  

Why is my bread made with “Enriched White Flour?”

Enriched flour or bread is also not whole grain. In fact, this is probably the best example of the modern food industry realizing they have stripped the nutrients from a food product so severely it needs to be reconciled. The term “Enriched Flour" or "Enriched Bread”, as stated by Canadian regulations, can only be used when the nutrients of thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, folic acid and iron are added into flour at specific levels. Thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, and folic acid are examples of B vitamins. These naturally occurring B vitamins are found in a whole grain, but were removed with the germ and bran layers. So to increase nutritive value these nutrients are added back to refined flours to “enrich” them meaning nutrients are added back in. Not only does this seem counter intuitive, but it just requires more processing for foods and only refined white flours would need this additional step.

Do whole grains help me feel fuller?

Yes, this is because of the additional protein and fibre found in whole grains versus refined grains. When nutrients are consumed in balance, such as bread made with whole grains ground into flour, you are consuming more protein and fibre versus a bread made with refined white flour. The fibre and protein are digested differently than starches, which is why you are having the feeling of being full longer. 

Incorporating whole grains into your diet can be done by choosing whole grain flours for baking, whole grain cereals at breakfast time, and even side dishes that contain whole grains. You will be consuming more nutrients and you will feel great knowing you are consuming nutrients as nature intended.

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