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Are you getting the benefits of grains?


Michelle Broome, General Manager, Grains and Legumes Nutrition Council (GLNC)


Australians are cutting grain foods from their diet without realising the importance of these foods in providing essential nutrients and preventing chronic disease. Grain foods are the leading source of dietary fibre in the Australian diet, contributing 44% of total daily fibre intake, and breakfast cereals and breads are the main sources1. Grain foods are also the number one source of essential nutrients including folate, thiamine, iron, magnesium and iodine1. In addition, fibre-rich grain foods deliver protective phytonutrients, thought to protect against disease in the long term2.


Given their impressive nutrition credentials it’s not surprising the science consistently shows people who eat more grain foods, mostly whole grain or high fibre, experience a reduced risk of weight gain, heart disease, type 2 diabetes and bowel cancer3.


In fact, compared to other food groups, fibre-rich grain foods offer the greatest protection against a range of diet-related diseases4 and cereal fibre offers greater protection against the risk of an early death than other high fibre foods5.


Despite their significant nutrition and health benefits, the 2014 Australian Grains & Legumes Consumption Study found the majority of Australians are not meeting their minimum recommended serves of grain foods and intakes have declined in recent years6. This is a concern because the people cutting out grain foods are likely to not be getting enough fibre, putting themselves at risk of chronic disease.


The benefits of grains, for day-to-day and long term wellbeing can be realised by enjoying a variety of grain foods three to four times a day, half of which should be whole grain or high fibre choices.


This is as easy as:


  • Make time for breakfast: Try whole grain or a high fibre breakfast cereal with milk, or toasted wholemeal bread with an egg.
  • Choose whole grain snacks: Try adding muesli or granola to yoghurt, lightly buttered popcorn or whole grain crackers with hummus dip .
  • Plan fibre-rich grains for lunch: Choose wholemeal breads with your sandwich or add brown rice, quinoa or barley to salads.
  • Get creative with dinner:
    • Add barley to soups, casseroles or risottos.
    • Use brown rice for stir fry.
    • Make salads with different grains such as wholemeal couscous, millet or quinoa.

1. Australian Health Survey: Nutrition First Results - Foods and Nutrients, 2011-12. Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2014.
2. Fardet A. New hypotheses for the health-protective mechanisms of whole-grain cereals: what is beyond fibre? Nutrition Research Reviews. 2010;23(1):65-134.
3. NHMRC. Australian Dietary Guidelines: Providing the scientific evidence for healthier Australian diets. 2013 Accessed online January 2014.
4. Fardet A, Boirie Y. Associations between food and beverage groups and major diet-related chronic diseases: an exhaustive review of pooled/meta-analyses and systematic reviews. Nutrition Reviews. 2014: Am J Epidemiol.
5. Kim Y, Je Y. Dietary fiber intake and total mortality: A meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies. American Journal of Epidemiology. 2014;180(6):565-73.
6. GLNC. 2014 Australian Grains and Legumes Consumption and Attitudinal Report. Unpublished: 2014.