Want whole grains? Read the label or you might be fooled – I was

The evidence on the benefits of whole grains just keeps on coming. And as the message gets out, people are indeed looking for whole grains over refined ones. But those refined products can sneak into your shopping cart, even if you’re nutritionally savvy.

First, here’s the latest research on whole grains.

In a study, published in the Journal of Nutrition, Danish researchers investigated the associations between whole-grain intake, including intakes of different cereal types and products, and the risk of type 2 diabetes in more than 55,000 subjects, aged 50 to 65 years at the start of the investigation. Over the 15 years of follow up, 7417 participants were diagnosed with type 2 diabetes.

The researchers found that whole-grain intake was associated with an 11% and 7% lower risk of type 2 diabetes per whole-grain serving per day for men and women.

The real deal

But when you’re trying to go for whole grains (after all it is Whole Grains Month!), you want to be sure you’re getting the real deal. For those of you who have been reading my blog for any length of time, you know that whole wheat labelling in Canada is a pet peeve of mine. For those of you unfamiliar with it, it’s the fact that in Canada, a product labelled as whole wheat is very likely not a whole grain.

Those breads labelled multigrain are yet another grain trap that have fooled people in the past. But many are getting the message that just because the word multigrain appears in the name or on the package, it doesn’t mean the product is actually whole grain.  It could simply mean many grains are in the package. Reading the ingredient list allows you to tell the whole grain products from the lookalike impostors. As ingredients are listed in descending order by amount, if the first ingredient is enriched wheat flour, the bread is not whole grain.

But I’m now going to admit that I, myself, have been fooled by a product name. I had thought that if you chose a bread labelled as a sprouted grain, you were going to get a whole grain product.  Sprouted grains are produced when whole grains (which are really seeds) are sprouted under controlled conditions. As a result, when I saw a sprouted grain on the label, I didn’t always read the label, assuming it was indeed whole grain. Shame on me, or should I say shame on the company.

Here is an example of a product that I thought contained only whole grains. The bread is from Stone Mill Bakehouse, a local operation in Toronto. Their Sprouted Flax Bread is part of the company’s Honest Wellness line. Now it’s true that their breads are slow-crafted but with a line that speaks to wellness, I expected whole grain, especially in a sprouted grain bread. 

Check out the label and note that the first ingredient of the Sprouted Flax bread is refined flour.


How about this Authentic Sourdough Rye Multigrain? Agai, check out the refined flour as the first ingredient.

When the first ingredient is wheat flour, I have to ask if this is honest wellness? Their criteria for this category is to “hand-select only the healthiest ingredients that provide nutritional benefits to support your health and well-being”.

Wheat flour as the first ingredient doesn’t exactly fit the bill for that statement – to me anyway. What about you?

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Categories: Rosie's Rants, Whole Foods

Author:Rosie Schwartz

Rosie Schwartz is a Toronto-based consulting dietitian and writer.

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