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Since there is no single standard for defining a product as wholegrain, food labelling remains inconsistent. Courtesy iStockphoto
Since there is no single standard for defining a product as wholegrain, food labelling remains inconsistent. Courtesy iStockphoto

Food for Thought: The truth about wholegrains

Many products claim to contain whole grains but really don't. Head to the ingredient list for the truth.

The list of grains in your bread and cereal can get confusing, and include wholemeal, wholegrain, brown, white and a multitude of other descriptions. We know that brown is generally better than white, but when it comes to wholemeal versus wholegrain, confusion can set in. Typically, wholegrain is considered better than wholemeal, since all the grain is used, increasing both the fibre and protein content.

However, just to confuse matters further, a new study by the Harvard School of Public Health has found the classification of a food as "wholegrain" is inconsistent and "in some cases misleading". The study found some foods that were given the wholegrain stamp to be higher in both calories and sugars than comparable foods without the stamp, making it increasingly difficult for consumers to make healthy choices.

The US Department of Agriculture noted in its 2010 Dietary Guidelines that a wholegrain diet could lower cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and obesity and advises that people consume three servings of whole grains daily.

Yet finding whole grains remains difficult, and as there is no single standard for defining a product as a "wholegrain", food labelling remains inconsistent.

Throughout the study, foods with the wholegrain seal of approval were higher in fibre and lower in transfats but they contained significantly more sugar and calories compared with products without the stamp. With food labelling remaining a contentious issue, the simplest and perhaps most reliable assessment method is to go straight to the ingredients list. This information can very quickly give you an excellent indication as to the nutrition value, allowing you to bypass marketing claims and make a more informed choice.

Look for natural ingredients, foods that you could buy yourself and bake, should you wish. Avoid anything that you cannot pronounce, anything "refined" and, of course, the usual suspects - sugars, syrups, salts, transfats, preservatives and E numbers.

Laura Holland is a well-being consultant and nutritional therapist. For more information, go to www.BeUtifulYou.Com

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