What is a whole grain?

I think there is some misconception about what exactly a whole grain is.  Whole grains are definitely better for you and there are some great whole grain products out there.  But what is a good whole grain product and what isn’t.  Are all these “whole grain” products really whole grain?  Let’s take a look.

A whole grain contains the 3 edible parts of the grain – the bran, the germ and the endosperm.  The bran is the outer skin with lots of fibre and antioxidants.  The germ is the embryo to sprout into a new plant and the endosperm is the food supply for the germ, so the germ can send roots down for water and nutrients and sprouts for sunlight.  The endosperm is the largest portion and contains starchy carbohydrates, some proteins and a little bit of vitamin and minerals.

So why are whole grains healthier?  Refining a grain normally just leaves the endosperm,  Without the bran and germ, about 25% of the protein is lost as well as a significant reduction in other nutrients.  The bran and germ also provide extra fibre and phtyochemicals that the endosperm does not contain.

 Great wholegrains to include in your diet are: oats, quinoa, brown rice, barley, corn.  Just be careful of food labelling!  Bread may be labelled “Wholegrain” but not actually be comprised of a majority of whole grain flour as there are no requirements under Australia labelling laws, so be sure to check the ingredients to make sure it is made from a majority of wholly or wholegrains.

Catherine Craig
Catherine Craig