Don't Get Fooled: Multigrain Doesn't Mean Whole Grain

August 29, 2012

This is a mistake one might easily fall into: seeing a food labeled as “multigrain” (such as multigrain bread, crackers or cereals) and thinking that it’s a “whole grain” food.
But this is not always the case as the label multigrain just means that are two or more different types of grains have been used in a product. Not that the grains used were whole.

Whole v. Multi

To be considered whole, a grain shall still contain the endosperm, the bran and the germ. Processed or refined grains have been stripped off of the two latter items and are only left with the endosperm.
Why does it matters? Because the bran and the germ of grains contain the fiber, magnesium, vitamins, and other important phytonutrients  which are crucial for our health. That’s why whole grain are far superior to refined grains from a nutritional standpoint.
To go back on the multigrain issue: no matter how many grains are used in a single product, if such grains have been refined and are not whole anymore, you might missing out on valuable nutrients. That’s the bottom line.
Sometime the distinction can become quite tricky as you can have some multigrain foods that may include at the same time whole grain ingredients alongside refined ones. Unless specifically stated as having only whole grains, ingredients in a product could be either whole or refined grains.
For instance, if you read on the label that a certain product contains “enriched wheat flour” that’s refined flour not whole wheat one.
In other words that particular multigrain food is not comprised entirely of whole grains and has limited health benefits compared to whole grain foods.

Read the ingredient list carefully and look for the stamp

If you want to buy a whole grain product, you want to make sure that whole wheat, whole oats or brown rice are the first and preferably the only grains in the ingredient list.
Be very careful with overly processed foods such as crackers and cereals, the ingredient list on such foods are so long that one might get lost when you perform your screening.

What is the easiest way to know you are eating whole grain? Look for the Whole Grain Council stamp which means that your product was indeed made with truly healthy whole grain and not "multigrain".

There are two different varieties of Stamp, the Basic Stamp and the 100% Stamp. If a product bears the 100% Stamp, then all its grain ingredients are whole grains. There is a minimum requirement of 16 grams (i.e., a full serving) of whole grain per labeled serving, for products using the 100% Stamp.
If a product bears the Basic Stamp, it contains at least 8 grams (i.e., a half serving) of whole grain, but may also contain some refined grain. Even if a product contains large amounts of whole grain (23g, 37g, 41g, etc.), it will use the Basic Stamp if it also contains extra bran, germ, or refined flour.
Each Stamp also shows a number, telling you how many grams of whole grain ingredients are in a serving of the product.


Since the current dietary guidelines say that we need three servings of whole grain daily. In other words, at least half of the grain we consume should be whole grain in order to meet such threshold.
Don’t get fooled by a multigrain label and always look or whole grain!

The Iron You


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