Whole grains are a source of fibre and are typically low in fat. Eating Well with Canada's Food Guide recommends that Canadians eat a diet rich in whole grains by choosing at least half their daily grain servings from whole grain sources.
Grains are the seeds of certain plants. The seed, or kernel, is made up of three parts: the bran, the endosperm and the germ - all of which contain valuable nutrients that play an important role in your diet. There are many types of grains, including cereal grains such as wheat, rice, oats, barley, corn, wild rice, and rye, as well as pseudocereals such as quinoa and buckwheat. These grains can be either whole or refined.
Whole grains contain all three parts of the kernel. Examples include rolled oats and brown rice. You can eat whole grains on their own or find them as ingredients in products or recipes.
Refined grains are whole grains that have had the germ and the bran removed (examples include white rice, white flour, grits and cream of wheat). This results in a loss of fibre, vitamins and minerals. Some refined grains are enriched B that is, some of the lost minerals and vitamins are added back. In Canada, manufacturers are required to enrich white flour, resulting in a flour that is a significant source of several vitamins and iron. However, it still lacks some nutrients and the fibre found in whole grain flour.
In Canada, when wheat is milled to make flour, the parts of the grain are usually separated and then are recombined to make specific types of flour, such as whole wheat, whole grain, white cake and pastry flour, and all purpose white flour. If all parts of the kernel are used in the same relative proportions as they exist in the original kernel, then the flour is considered whole grain.
Under the Food and Drug Regulations, up to 5% of the kernel can be removed to help reduce rancidity and prolong the shelf life of whole wheat flour. The portion of the kernel that is removed for this purpose contains much of the germ and some of the bran. If this portion of the kernel has been removed, the flour would no longer be considered whole grain.
Whole wheat bread is made with whole wheat flour. As sold in Canada, whole wheat flour may have much of the germ removed. Therefore, 100% whole wheat bread may not be whole grain - however, it remains a nutritious choice that provides dietary fibre not found in white bread.
Look for the word "whole grain" on the label and in the ingredient list. Many foods containing whole grains will have the words "whole grain" followed by the name of the grain as one of the first ingredients. Products labelled with the words "multigrain," and "organic" are not necessarily whole grain - the flour or grains in the products may be made with or consist of little or no whole grains.
Health Canada recognizes the importance whole grains play in a healthy diet. The Food Guide provides practical tips on how you can include whole grains in your meals each day.
For more information, please visit Eating Well with Canada's Food Guide.