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September 25, 2012

Food For Thought

Is Marketing Graining on Your Health Parade?

We know that whole grains are healthier than “white ones”. There are more and more products with “whole grains” in them. And many companies advertise that they use “whole grains.” But, what is a whole grain anyway, and how do we know we’re getting them in our food? The answer may not be as simple as you think.

The whole grain is made up of three parts:

  1. Fiber (sometime called “bran”),
  2. Germ
  3. Endosperm (the white part).

The reason why whole grains are healthier is because they contain the fiber, germ, and endosperm, whereas “white grains” only contain the endosperm. The consequences of only consuming the endosperm, as found in white rice and white bread, are manifold.

How To Find “Whole Grains”

If the ingredient lists “whole grain”, “wholemeal”, or “whole (enter any grain here)”  the product is a whole- grain food item. On the other hand, some misleading terms such as “enriched”, “wholewheat” and “bromated”, among others, could indicate that the food lacks whole grain.

When you pick up a product and the first ingredient listed is “wheat flour” as opposed to “whole-grain wheat flour,” this description is vague and is NOT a strong indicator of the product’s whole grain content. If the product’s first two ingredients are listed as grain products but only the second is listed as whole grain, the entire product may contain between 1% and 49% whole grain.

Fiber is not indicative of whole grains. The amount of fiber varies from grain to grain, and some products may have things like bran, peas, or other foods added to boost the fiber content.

BUYER BEWARE! Many breads on the market are colored brown with molasses and made to look like a healthier product, but are not. Some food manufacturers make products with whole grain ingredients, however since the product is not predominantly whole grain ingredients, they cannot be classified as whole-grain products. Other marketing ploys set out to mislead the consumer are “contains whole grain”, “100% wheat”, “made with whole wheat”, “multigrain”, “pumpernickel”, and “stone ground.” No wonder it is so confusing for the consumer. These DO NOT correspond to any government standards and thus imply nothing about the product’s nutritional make up.

Canadians can be assured, according to government standards, that if a product label reads “100% whole grain whole (insert grain here)” that you are purchasing the right item.

Whole grains are often more expensive than refined grains but they contain all their components. So is it really more expensive?

– Josh