Why choose wholegrains?

Wholegrains are an important part of a healthy diet and are packed with nutrients that'll have you feeling great.

What’s a wholegrain?

Wholegrain foods contain all three layers of the grain, just as nature intended. This includes the:

  • outer bran layer
  • inner germ layer
  • endosperm.

When a grain food is refined, for instance in white bread, the outer layers of the grain are removed and with them many of the fibre, minerals, vitamins and phytochemicals. In fact, up to 70% of these beneficial nutrients can be lost.

While some refined grain products, like refined flour, can then be enriched with some of the vitamins and minerals that are lost during processing, many of the phytochemicals and micronutrients can't be replaced.

Benefits of wholegrains

Wholegrains provide key health benefits, including:

  • protection against heart disease and stroke
  • reduced risk of type 2 diabetes
  • improved bowel health
  • lower cholesterol and blood pressure
  • and protection against some cancers.

Wholegrains can also:  

  • help you manage your weight 
  • improve your blood sugar control, creating a feeling of fullness and discouraging overeating
  • help to fight fatigue and boost concentration.

Nutritionally, wholegrains contain carbohydrate, protein, fibre and a wide range of minerals and vitamins such as magnesium, iron, iodine, zinc, B vitamins (folate, thiamine, riboflavin, niacin) and vitamin E.

Did you know?
New Zealanders don’t eat enough wholegrains. The recent NZ Nutrition Foundation Report showed that New Zealand intakes of wholegrains are far below the daily recommendation for good health.

How many wholegrain foods should I eat?

Adults and children should aim for between four and six serves of grain foods a day, at least two thirds of which are wholegrain or high cereal fibre.

What is a wholegrain?

Wholegrain foods include brown rice, barley, rye, traditional rolled oats, bulgur, sorghum, buckwheat, millet, quinoa, corn on the cob, corn kernels, semolina, polenta, wholegrain breads, wholegrain pasta and wholegrain breakfast cereals.

How much is a serve?

A serve of wholegrain would be:

  • 1 slice (40g) of wholegrain bread
  • ½ medium wholegrain roll or flat bread
  • ½ cup of cooked brown rice, barley, buckwheat, bulgur, quinoa
  • ½ cup of cooked porridge (from traditional rolled oats)
  • 2 wholegrain breakfast cereal biscuits
  • ⅔ cup (30g) of wholegrain cereal flakes
  • ¼ cup of muesli
  • 3 (35g) wholegrain crackers.

How can I tell if a packaged food is wholegrain?

Read the ingredient list on the product and look for the following words: wholegrain, whole wheat, whole (other grain), popcorn, brown rice, barley, oats, rye, sorghum, millet or triticale. If these ingredients are listed either first or second, the product will probably be a good source of wholegrains. Some products will declare the percentage of wholegrains in the ingredients list – if they do, aim for products that contain more than 51%.

A simple swap

Swapping refined grains (generally white) for wholegrains (generally brown and grainy) is an easy way to protect your body against chronic disease and to improve your health and wellbeing.

Did you know?
By eating 2-3 serves of wholegrain foods each day, you can reduce your risk of developing chronic disease by 20-30%!

Wholegrain meal ideas

Here are some easy meal ideas to increase your wholegrain intake:

  • enjoy a wholegrain breakfast cereal made from wholegrain wheat, oats or sorghum or traditional rolled oats made into a porridge
  • top wholegrain crackers with avocado or natural peanut butter
  • choose wholegrain breads and wraps for lunch boxes
  • use long-grain brown rice with a stir-fry or curry
  • serve your favourite pasta sauce over wholemeal pasta or spaghetti
  • add pearled barley or quinoa to soups
  • toss quinoa or buckwheat through salads
  • use wholegrain flours when making pizza dough, breads, loafs or muffins.

See our healthy Recipes section for more recipe ideas.

  1. Australian Government Department of Health. Health benefits of grain foods. [Internet] 2015 [cited 2016 June 6]; available from: https://www.eatforhealth.gov.au/food-essentials/five-food-groups/grain-cereal-foods-mostly-wholegrain-and-or-high-cereal-fibre

  2. Ruxton C, Derbyshire E. The health benefits of wholegrains and fibre. Nutr Food Sci 2014;44(6):492-519.

  3. Seal JS, Brownlee IA. Whole-grain foods and chronic disease: evidence from epidemiological and intervention studies. Proc Nutr Society 2015;74(3):313-319.

  4. Williams PG, Grafenauer SJ, O’Shea JE. Cereal grains, legumes, and weight management: a comprehensive review of the scientific evidence. Nutr Rev 2008; 66(4):171-182.

  5. Grains & Legumes Nutrition Council. 2016 Grains for Health Report. [Interent] 2016 [cited 2016 July 25]; available from: http://www.glnc.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/Grains-for-Health-Report-FINAL.pdf

  6. Australian Government Department of Health. Recommended number of serves for adults. [Internet] 2015 [cited 2016 June 6]; available from: https://www.eatforhealth.gov.au/food-essentials/how-much-do-we-need-each-day/recommended-number-serves-adults

  7. Australian Government Department of Health. Recommended number of serves for children, adolescents and toddlers. [Internet] 2015 [cited 2016 June 6]; available from: https://www.eatforhealth.gov.au/food-essentials/how-much-do-we-need-each-day/recommended-number-serves-children-adolescents-and

  8. Australian Government Department of Health. How much should I eat from the grain (cereal) group? [Internet] 2015 [cited 2016 June 6]; available from: https://www.eatforhealth.gov.au/food-essentials/five-food-groups/grain-cereal-foods-mostly-wholegrain-and-or-high-cereal-fibre

  9. Grains & Legumes Nutrition Council. Grains and health. [Internet] 2016 [cited 2015 June 6]; available from: http://www.glnc.org.au/grains-2/grains-and-health/

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