Whole Grains Aren’t Always What They Seem

Grains, the largest food group in many nutriti...

Grains, the largest food group in many nutrition guides, includes oats, barley and bread. Cookies, however, are categorized as sugars. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health have found that the Whole Grain Stamp was placed on grain products that were higher in sugars and calories than products without the Stamp. Their study is the first such research to evaluate the healthfulness of whole grain foods based on five industry and government definitions:

  • The Whole Grain Stamp, a symbol developed by the Whole Grain Council, that is affixed to the packages of products containing a minimum of eight grams of whole grains per serving.
  • The USDA’s MyPlate and the Food and Drug Administration’s Consumer Health Information guide recommendation of any whole grain as the first listed ingredient.
  • The USDA’s MyPlate recommendation of any whole grain listed as the first ingredient without added sugars in the first three ingredients.
  • The USDA’s Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010 recommendation of the word “whole” before any grain anywhere in the ingredient list.
  • The American Heart Association’s (AHA) 2020 Goals recommendation of the “10:1 ratio,” a ratio of total carbohydrate to fiber of less than 10 to 1.

The researchers identified 545 grain products in eight categories: breads, bagels, English muffins, cereals, crackers, cereal bars, granola bars, and chips. The products came from  two major U.S. grocers. The scientists used these products to collect nutrition content, ingredient lists, and the presence or absence of the Whole Grain Stamp on product packages.

Here’s what they found:

  • The Whole Grain Stamp products were higher in fiber and lower in trans fats, but  contained substantially more sugar and calories as compared to products without the Stamp.
  • The three USDA recommended criteria had mixed results for identifying healthier grain products.
  • The American Heart Association’s standard was the best indicator of healthfulness. Products meeting the AHA ratio were higher in fiber and lower in trans fats, sugar, and sodium, without higher calories.
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~ by chasm63 on January 11, 2013.

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