The word ‘refined’ is a compliment when it comes to your sense of style, but for your diet it’s another thing entirely. Here’s everything you need to know about whole foods, especially why wholegrains are super good for you.

The Whole Truth

As the name suggests, whole grains contain the ‘whole’ grain, including the nutrient-rich germ, the energy-providing endosperm and the fibre-rich bran layer. Coming in different shapes and sizes, whole grains are an excellent source of healthy carbohydrates, dietary fibre and protein. They are also packed with vitamins and minerals and contain many protective components, such as antioxidants and phytonutrients (plant nutrients). Refined grains, on the other hand, have been processed, which removes the bran and germ.  The refinement process gives these foods a finer texture and also removes important nutrients, such as B vitamins and fibre.

Common Types of Whole Grains

  • Whole wheat
  • Spelt
  • Oat
  • Barley
  • Maize (corn – including popcorn)
  • Brown rice
  • Rye
  • Triticle

Common Types of Refined Grains

  • White rice
  • White flour
  • White bread
  • Pasta (non-wholewheat varieties)

What does the research say?

Research published in the American Journal of Dieteticsrandomly assigned 144 obese people into two groups. Over the 12-week study period all participants received the same dietary advice on weight loss and were encouraged to participate in daily physical activity at a moderate intensity. One group was instructed to eat an oat-based wholegrain cereal for breakfast, while the other group ate refined cereal, with equal amounts of calories. What did they find?Results from the study showed that weight loss in the abdominal region was greater in the whole grain group. Participants in the whole grain group also lowered their cholesterol levels due to the beta gluten (a type of soluble fibre) found in oats, proven to have many health benefits including lowering LDL (bad) cholesterol and controlling blood sugar levels.

What about weight loss?

“Due to the high fibre content, a single serving of whole grains will fill you up quicker and stay in your stomach longer compared to low-fibre foods,” says Fernwood’s consulting dietitian Kylie Andrew.“Refined grains like white rice and those used to make white bread and sugary breakfast cereals have had most of their fibre and nutrients stripped away, causing a huge spike in insulin levels. High insulin levels tell our bodies that plenty of energy is readily available and that it should stop burning fat and start storing it.” Adds Kylie.

How much do I need to eat each day?

According to the Grains and Legumes Council, a good habit is to make at least half your grain (cereal) food choices wholegrains, otherwise it is recommended to eat 2- 3 serves (about 48 grams) of whole grains per day.

What is a ‘serve’?
One ‘serve’ of grain-based food:
= 2 slices of wholemeal bread
= 1 medium whole grain bread roll
= 4 whole grain crispbreads
= 1 cup of cooked whole wheat pasta or brown rice
= 1 cup of cooked porridge
= 1 1/3 cups of breakfast cereal flakes
= 2 wheat-flake or oat-flake breakfast biscuits
= ½ cup of muesli

Problems Down There?

 “The fibre in whole grains, fruit, vegetables and legumes cleanses and keeps your digestive tract in good working order, helps prevent constipation and maintains regularity (keeps the bowels moving),” explains Sydney-based gastroenterologist Professor Bolin and President of the Gut Foundation. What about those embarrassing gas moments? “Adding too much fibre, too quickly can cause bloating, intestinal gas (flatulence) and other digestive discomforts,” says Bolin. Instead, Bolin recommends gradually introducing fruits, vegetables, and whole grains by starting off eating one or two fruits and vegetables a day for a week, then up your fibre intake to five servings of fruits and vegetables a day over the next week or so. Drinking at least eight glasses of water a day helps too, advises Bolin.

Sample Meal Plan

Reaching your wholegrain daily target may be easier than you think! Combine your grains with an assortment of fruits, vegetables and a protein (lean meats, nuts, or beans), and you’ll have tasty and nutritious meals in no time.

Breakfast 1 cup of wholegrain breakfast cereal with milk. 28 g
Lunch Wholemeal wrap + 1 small can of tuna + 2 cups of salad. 25 g
Dinner Brown rice pilaf (1 cup cooked rice). 66 g
Total Whole Grain 119 g

* This meal solution, when included as part of a varied and balanced diet, will help you reach 48 grams per day.

Label Watch

Scan the bread aisle and virtually every package touts some kind of nutritional whole grain goodness. But sorting out the healthy from the merely can be tricky. It’s important to take a closer look at the food labels as you may find there’s not a single whole grain in sight. When in doubt, look for the word “whole” in the ingredients list and choose items with at least 3 grams of dietary fibre per serving.

Health Benefits of Wholegrain

  • Promote better bowel function, regularity, less belly bloat
  • Keep you fuller for longer – means you eat less
  • Stabilise sugar levels, which help burn fat faster
  • Protect against heart disease, cholesterol and lower the risk of bowel cancer.

Quick Tips

  • Substitute barley for white rice in risotto recipes
  • Replace white bread and rice with wholegrain varieties.
  • Substitute white flour with whole wheat flour in recipes for baking
  • Add brown rice, wild rice or barley in your vegetable soup
  • Snack on popcorn instead of chips on movie nights
  • Choose wholegrain, wholemeal and mixed grain breads, crackers, muffins, pita, crumpets and crsipbread
  • Choose wholegrain, high fibre breakfast cereals, porridge and muesli
  • Choose brown rice and wholemeal pasta
  • Use wholemeal flour to thicken sauces, gravies and stews
  • Use wholemeal breadcrumbs or oats to coat foods


  1. Journal of American dietetic Association (2010) Whole-Grain Ready-to-Eat Oat Cereal, as Partof a Dietary Program for Weight Loss, ReducesLow-Density Lipoprotein Cholesterol in Adults withOverweight and Obesity More than a DietaryProgram Including Low-Fibre Control Foods. Kevin C. Maki
  1. Journal of Cereal Science (2007) Whole grain phytochemicals and health. Rui Hai Liu.?



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