Whole grains are whole kernels of cereal grains such as wheat, oats, rye and barley. Wholegrain is available both as flour and as whole grains and can be used in products such as bread and pasta. Wholegrain is rich in fibre and difficult for the body to break down. This means that the energy in wholegrain is released more slowly which helps keep your blood sugar level steady over time.
Wholegrain and wholegrain products are made from the entire kernel. All cereal grains - whether rye, wheat, barley or oats - consist of three component parts: a husk, a sprout and an endosperm.
Wholegrain can be ground, milled or whole
For a product to be able to be called whole grain, the husk, sprout and endosperm must be included. It does not matter whether it is ground, milled or whole. This means that we can consume wholegrain in many different forms such as in flour, pasta, bread and cereal grains.
Wholegrain can prevent disease
Scientific studies show that people who eat a lot of wholegrain products and have a healthy lifestyle in general, run less risk of suffering heart disease.
We don't know for certain yet what this is due to, but it is probably related to soluble dietary fibre, so-called beta-glucans, that together with other biological substances, have a positive effect on heart health.
Wholegrain can also help lower your blood pressure and maintain your weight.
How much wholegrain should we eat?
How much wholegrain we need varies from individual to individual. The Swedish National Food Administration guidelines are around 70 g wholegrain per day for women and around 90 g for men.
Here are some examples of what this corresponds to:
- 1 portion porridge oats and 1 portion wholegrain pasta, or,
- 2 crispbread crackers and 1 portion wholegrain bulgur or,
- 1 portion wholegrain cereal flakes, 1 slice of Keyhole label bread, 1 crispbread cracker and 1 portion wholegrain pasta.
As different grains contain different nutrients, it is good to vary your intake for a balanced diet.
Beta-glucans are a specific type of dietary fibre.
Oats and barley have high concentrations of beta-glucans and they contain many health benefits.
When we eat wholegrain, the beta-glucans form a gel in our bowels.
This gel binds with bile acids, which helps the body absorb cholesterol from the bowels and excrete them naturally. When bile acids disappear, new bile acids must be formed, which is done by converting cholesterol. In so doing, cholesterol levels are reduced in the body.
The gel the beta-glucans form has several other positive health benefits.
For instance, they contribute to inhibiting the absorption of glucose, which means blood sugar levels rise more slowly. The water soluble beta-glucans also support intestinal microflora which help our stomach feel better.