Cereals have always been a fundamental part of our diet. Of course, we need to differentiate between refined and wholegrain cereals. Which are most popular? We are offering you detailed information on cereals and a brief analysis of the pros and cons of each type so that you can tell if you what you are having is really wholegrain.
More and more authorities and organisations, such as the World Health Organisation, are recommending an increased intake of wholegrain cereals. Wholegrain cereals, together with fruit and vegetables, should be part of our daily diet, as, besides being healthy, they help balance our diet.
After a great deal of research, we know that having wholegrain cereals is beneficial for your health, as they prevent:
○ The development of diabetes Mellitus type 2
○ Colon cancer
○ Cardiovascular disease.
The problem is that, nowadays, supermarket shelves and wrapping are full of messages hailing: “wholegrain food”, “rich in fibre”, “with five cereal types”, etc. What’s more, many of these are brown in colour, leading us to believe that they are wholegrain but this is not the case. It’s best to get informed and avoid misunderstandings.
First of all, what do you define as a cereal?
Grasses and their ripe, complete, healthy, dried fruits, according to the definition by the Spanish Food Code. There is a large variety of cereals, canary grass, rice, oats, barley, rye, corn, wheat, etc.
The grain of cereal has 3 parts, from outside in:
– Germ: located in the centre of the seed. A new plant can be grown from this. It contains vitamin B, E, antioxidants, phytonutrients and non-saturated fats.
– Endosperm: it makes up the greater part of the grain. It is the germ’s food supply which, in the event that the grain continues to grow, provides it with the necessary energy for a new plant. This part is rich in carbohydrates, but, at the same time, it has proteins and small quantities of vitamins and minerals. It is the ground part of the grain used to make refined flour.
– Bran or husk: it is the outermost part of the grain containing several layers, so that helps protect the endosperm and the germ from sunlight, plagues, water and disease. It is rich in fibre and contains some B complex vitamins, protein and iron.
Now we have learnt about the structure of the grain, it is time to differentiate between refined and wholegrain cereals.
Wholegrain cereals are those including all three parts of the grain and can be consumed whole, split, separated, in flakes or ground. They are characterised by having a darker colour and being coarser, due to the bran.
Refined cereals are those whose bran and part of the endosperm are removed during processing, in other words, only the inner part of the grain, the germ, is used.
Wholegrain cereal has more nutrients than refined cereal, as well as vitamins of the B group, vitamin E, minerals (zinc, iron, magnesium, potassium, selenium), essential fatty acids, phytochemical substance and other bioactive components; which is why you are recommended to choose wholegrain cereals.
Another problem is how to recognise them.
It may seem easy to identify them but just because they are brown in colour or because they are high in fibre does not mean they are wholegrain.
Many processed foods have added fibre but, as already mentioned, this does not mean that they are wholegrain. In fact, although the wrapping on some products may say “rich in fibre or wholegrain”, they could have unexpected and unhealthy additions, such as high-fructose syrup, treacle or caramel. This is why we recommend you read the label. Take particular not of:
– The name of the product: to find out if it is really a wholegrain product, go to the ingredients section and look for the word “wholegrain” or “100% whole-wheat”.
– The list of nutrients: when it is a wholegrain product, the wholegrain cereals are listed at the top in the ingredients section on the label.
– Colour and texture: even though the food is brown in colour, it may not be wholegrain (e.g., some types of bread are brown because of the treacle or caramel colouring used to make them). Many wholegrain products, such as cereals, are light in colour. Note too that the texture of wholegrain foods is not always dry and grainy. It can also be dense with an almond flavour or light and flaky like a grain of cereal.
Quantity of fibre
A processed food which is rich in fibre should provide a minimum of 3g of fibre for every 100 g or 1.5 g of fibre per 100 calories, according to the Spanish Agency for Consumer Affairs, Food Safety and Nutrition. To be entitled to claim to have “high fibre content” it must contain 6 g of fibre for 100 g of product or 3 g of fibre for every 100 calories. Always keep these data in mind.
Instead of being guided by the colour of products or messages on wrapping, go directly to the label to see if the product has really been made with cereals. If this is the case, add it to your diet and you will soon be able to see all the benefits they have to offer.