Skip links and keyboard navigation

Why I should eat: wholegrains

Monday 25 June 2018

A group of containers with grains and grain containing foods, including oats, breads and pastas.
There are lots of ways to get wholegrains into your diet.

Did you know that most Australian adults eat less than half the recommended quantity of wholegrain foods every day?

The Australian Dietary Guidelines recommend adults should eat 4–6 serves of grain (cereal) foods every day, with at least two thirds of these coming from wholegrain or high fibre options.

So, what are grain foods, and why are wholegrains best? Read on to find out why you should make wholegrains a part of your daily diet.

What are grain foods?

Grain foods, also called cereal foods, are foods made from the grains of plants. Common grain crops include wheat, oats, rice, rye, barley, millet, quinoa and corn.

There are lots of different ways to eat grains. You can eat some by cooking them and eating them whole, like rice or quinoa. Some grains are ground up to make flour, which can be used to make foods like bread, pasta or noodles. Or, grains can be made into ‘ready-to-eat’ foods, like breakfast cereals.

What are grains, and why are wholegrains better?

Grains are hard seeds, made up of three main parts: the bran, endosperm and germ.

The bran is the outside of the grain, and contains fibre, antioxidants and vitamins.

Inside is the endosperm, which makes up the majority of the grain. The endosperm contains energy in the form of carbohydrates, proteins and some vitamins and minerals. This part of the grain seed would be used to fuel the growth of a new plant if the seed were to be planted.

At the bottom of the grain is the germ. The germ is the ‘embryo’ of the grain, and holds the grain seed’s potential to sprout a new plant. The germ contains vitamins, protein, minerals and healthy fats.

After grains are harvested, some go through a process called milling, which usually removes the bran and the germ from the grain. This gives the grain a finer texture and can make it last longer, but it also means that a lot of the goodness of the grain is taken out.

When you eat wholegrains, all three layers of the grain are included: the bran, endosperm and the germ. This means you get a lot more of the fibre, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that the grain contains.

Wholegrains can be crushed to make wholemeal flours, which have a similar nutritional content to the original wholegrains.

Eating wholegrain cereals and foods can reduce your risk of developing some diseases, including coronary heart disease, colon cancer, diabetes and diverticular disease. The fibre contained in grain foods, especially wholegrains, helps your digestive system to work properly.  

A diagram showing the germ, endosperm and bran of a grain.

How many serves should I eat?

Every day, the Australian Dietary Guidelines recommends that adults should aim to eat at least 4–6 serves of grain or cereal foods, with the majority of these made from wholegrains. Some people with higher energy needs will need to eat more than this.

A standard serve of grain (cereal) foods contains about 500 kilojoules (the energy in the food). This translates to about:

  • 1 slice of bread
  • 1/2 a medium sized bread roll
  • 1/2 cup of cooked grain foods such as rice, pasta, barley, buckwheat, semolina, polenta, bulgur or quinoa
  • 1/2 cup cooked porridge
  • 2/3 cup wheat cereal
  • 1/4 cup muesli
  • 3 crispbreads
  • 1 crumpet
  • 1 small English muffin or scone

You can read more about what makes up a serve of different foods on the Eat for Health website.

When shopping for grain or cereal foods, look for the words ‘wholegrain’ or ‘wholemeal’ on the packaging. Keep in mind that breads that contain wholegrains may still be made on refined flours. Look for ‘wholemeal wholegrain’ breads, that have more fibre and nutrients that other types of bread made on wholemeal, wholegrains or refined flour (white bread) alone.

A woman sits on the floor in her exercise clothes, eating a bowl of porridge.

Wholegrain recipes

Looking for ways to get more wholegrains into your diet? Try these recipes from Healthier. Happier.

Vegetable Paella

Mixed Sandwiches

Vegetable Curry with Quinoa

Beef Burger with Coleslaw

Fruity Rice Pudding

Blueberry Banana Bread

Perfect Porridge

Last updated: 11 July 2018