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Whole grains: an unnecessary challenge?


What is the fuss about whole grains?

Why cannot we just jump over whole grain foods and gain fibre from other sources?

If you want to know a short, unmystified answer in plain English, keep reading.






Whole grains cracked

As I can see there is two status: ‘before whole grains’ and ‘after whole grains’. Before-people usually finds this ‘whole grain’ subject a pain – or at least exaggerated. After people do not understand why they did not eat whole grain food before and why not everybody eats whole grain?

I am not a perfect ‘after’ person – yet. Not because I don’t want to, but the transition takes time. I have made lots of whole grain swaps in my diet already, but I still face challenges in this field. So I perfectly understand both party’s views and feelings.

So, what’s this fuss about whole grain?

No mystery at all, the explanation is really simple: every nutritional value of a grain is concentrated in the outer layer; if this outer layer is removed, the 80% of the nutrients is removed.

What is in the outer layer what we miss out with refined carbohydrates?

  • nondigestible (insoluble) fibre
  • vitamins
  • minerals
  • oils
  • polyphenol and other phytonutrients

So, white flour is nothing more than carbohydrate deprived of its essential nutrients. A useless, empty calorie shell. It gives us energy – but it does not make us healthy. Indeed, it never fills us up – we can eat more, so it contributes to obesity and type 2 diabetes.

So, if you are a ‘before’ please continue reading, because there is more food for the mind.

Are you a constantly tired Mum?

Follow this free action plan

to get your energy back!

The Best 7 Nutritional Swaps To Be an Energetic Mum

With a printable reference.​



Here are the reasons why to swap to whole grain:

Whole grains support the gastroendestrial health. Its biggest benefit – besides the macro- and micronutrient content – is the high insoluble fibre. Our body isn’t able to digest this fibre, so it travels through the digestive system increasing transit time, increasing beneficial bacteria in the gut and removing pathogens and carcinogenic substances from the gut.

As a result, whole grains protect us against diseases like:

  • lowers the risk of gastroendestrial cancers
  • reduces inflammation in the gut
  • lowers the risk of stroke
  • lowers the risk of heart disease
  • supports better weight management

Studies have shown a strong association between whole grain consumption and diseases as the infographic shows below:

Health benefits of whole grains

So, it is out of the question that it is worth to swap our white food to whole grain.  But it’s easier to say then do it.

How to do the transition?

There is two kind of challenges when you want to switch to whole grains:

  1. Finding the right food
  2. Changing taste and habits

3. Finding the right whole grain food

Yes, this is not easy either as the majority of the available grain products in the shops and supermarkets is made from nonwhole ingredients: cereals, pasta, bakery goods. It makes the task even complicated that not everything is whole grain what looks like a whole grain product. Do not trust the claims on the packaging. Some products look super healthy, they are brown or dark, and even you can find some whole grain ingredients on the ingredients list, but it can be misleading. Manufacturers very often use a combination of whole and nonwhole ingredients and the label doesn’t tell us how much part is whole grain. The order of grain ingredients gives us a clue: if the whole grain is before the nongrain ingredient that indicates that the whole grain content is more than the nonwhole. So, it is not enough to inspect the appearance of a product you have to check the labels too!

I know it is time-consuming. We cannot read all the labels in the supermarket at every time when we are shopping. However, I suggest to you to invest some time at the beginning and find the reliable, basic products then stick to them – then you can check always the new products on the shelves and decide about including them into your trusted product list.

It is not just wheat where you can think of whole grain options, but other grains too: oat, barley, brown rice, maize, rye, millets etc.

Resources show that the majority of grains comes from the following grain products: cereals, bread, popcorn, crackers, pasta and other side dishes. So, it is worth to swap these products to whole grain.


2. Changing taste and habits

Well, this is usually the hard bit. Some people can do it overnight, but most of us struggle to make these changes.

Let’s be honest: wholemeal and whole grain products have a different texture and taste to nonwhole products. They are chewier, denser than the white products. Most of the people got used to the light, fluffy products – and shorter cooking time and reluctant giving this up. Also, some whole grain products may be accepted easier than others. It wasn’t a problem to swap to brown rice, but whole meal pasta is still a challenge for me.  We all have taste preferences – which mainly comes from our childhood – and whatever are the health benefits we like to stick to these.

But these are ‘just’ habits. I use inverted commas here because eating habits – as every habit –  can be changed – but it is sometimes really hard.

However, there is a good news from people who made these changes in their diet:

“After a little time you not just get used to their taste, but you will be fond of them and refined foods no longer satisfy you. Shortly you will not be able to imagine how you managed to avoid whole grain foods.”

So, what to do?

As our taste buds need a little to get used to the richer and nuttier taste of wholemeal food – probably it is a good idea to make changes gradually. First, swap to foods made with a mix of whole grains and refined grains, then when you get used to the taste, you go further ahead.

  1. Make a list of all product in your cupboard what is white and should be swapped to whole grain – regardless you want to change it or not
  2. Make a decision what order you will follow to swap them
  3. Look for good quality, genuine whole grain versions in your supermarket or local shops
  4. Start introducing them gradually into your diet. It is fine if you find hard to swap all wheat products to whole grain, every little change helps.

Be determined and persistent: as I said, it takes time.

whole grain options

Children and whole grains

Even small children can accept wholemeal food, it is a myth that they do not like it. If they eat white products only from their childhood, they will face the same problem in their life as you do now: they have to face the same challenges to change their eating habits. Why would you do this to your kids? It is true that children do not need the same amount of fiber as adults do, but they can eat and benefit from whole grain products just like everybody.

They usually do not like the chewy texture at the beginning, but they get used to it – just like they get used to other chewy food like meat and raw vegetables. Remember: it is a habit and you form these habits.

How much whole grain we need?

It is recommended for adults to have at least half of their grains as whole grains, this is at least 3-5 servings daily (1 serving=16g) but the health risks of diseases listed above can be reduced with as little as 1 serving a day.

Even for children –  daily 2-3 servings of whole grain food are recommended.


Just an important note at the end: whole grain is just a piece of the puzzle, all the goodness in whole grain cannot compensate for other unhealthy food in the diet. Cookies made with wholemeal flour are better than the nonwhole – but they are still cookies: they can be high in sugar and saturated fat!

At the bottom line, a healthy diet is not complete without whole grains, they must be part of a balanced and varied family diet.

Are you a constantly tired Mum?

Follow this free action plan

to get your energy back!

The Best 7 Nutritional Swaps To Be an Energetic Mum

With a printable reference.​

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