The benefits of whole grains

Nutrition & Well-Being
25 October 2021Hubert Cormier

Do you eat enough whole grains? The new edition of Canada's Food Guide includes whole grains in their recommendations, urging Canadians to eat a variety of whole grains daily, along with protein foods, healthy fats and plenty of vegetables and fruit. Whole grain foods are packed with important nutrients: dietary fibre, vitamins, minerals and can help prevent a number of illnesses, including colon cancer and type 2 diabetes. Whole grains are the way to go!

Not all whole wheat foods are made with whole grains, even though they contain fibre.

What are whole grains?

Whole grains have three distinct parts: bran, germ and endosperm. The process of refining grains removes the bran and germ, leaving only the endosperm. Refining removes most of the dietary fibre, B-complex vitamins, vitamin E, trace minerals and antioxidants. This is why refined products tend to be lower in dietary fibre, except when other fibres, such as inulin, are added during manufacturing.

Where do we find whole grains?

Whole grains are mainly found in:

  • Cereals;
  • Pseudo-grains (like quinoa);
  • Bread made from whole grain flours;
  • Crackers;
  • Muffins;
  • Whole grain oats;
  • Pasta made from whole grains
  • Brown and wild rice.

But be careful! Not all foods contain whole grains, even if it says so on the packaging. You also can't tell if a food is whole grain by its colour. Carefully check the ingredients list for “whole grain” and “integral”. They should be listed in the first three ingredients. Bon Matin breads are all prepared with whole grain flour, including Bon Matin's No Fat, No Sugar Added White Bread which contains whole grains.

Whole grains and health

Research shows that whole grains have numerous health benefits, including reduced risk of cardiovascular events, stroke, obesity and type 2 diabetes. In fact, a recent meta-analysis found that 28g of whole grains daily can reduce the risk of cardiovascular events by 22%. Now that’s impressive!

Whole grains fight disease with a rich blend of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and dietary fibre. For example, a one-ounce serving (28 g) of whole grains contains :

  • 3 g of fibre;
  • 69 % of the daily value (DV) in manganese;
  • 15 % of the DV in phosphorous;
  • 14 % of the DV in thiamine;
  • 12 % of the DV in magnesium;
  • 9 % of the DV in copper; and
  • 7 % of the DV in zinc and iron.

Dietary fibre: An essential part of whole grains

Dietary fibre has a number of health benefits. Fibre helps regulate blood glucose (blood sugar) and insulin (blood insulin) levels, two risk factors for type 2 diabetes.

When there is more fibre in food, it takes longer to chew. The extra time spent eating lets the brain signal fullness, which prevents overeating. Dietary fibre is also associated with better weight control. Fibre-rich foods tend to be lower in calories and usually have less added fat and sugar, while being more filling.

A high-fibre, whole-grain diet contributes to healthy weight control, prevents cardiovascular disease and even prevents certain cancers. To stay healthy, try to add whole grains to your diet as often as possible!