Ask Clark’s

I have seen the symbol “whole grain” on pack"ask clarks" headeraged foods when shopping. What does this symbol mean?

A question from Chelsea of Palm Desert  

By Clark’s Nutrition

The symbol you are talking about has been around since 2003.  The symbol was created by the Whole Grains Council (this council is a private organization that is not controlled by any government department) and is designed to educate individuals about eating whole grains as opposed to refined grains.  As you might already know most grains are processed and have portions of the grain removed. For instance whole wheat berries are processed by removing the bran and wheat germ leaving behind the endosperm, or center. Commonly in the United States we see the use of white flour, enriched flour, wheat flour (which is white flour with vitamins added), white rice, corn flour (which is refined corn) and other processed grains. These processed grains have been used for many years and are not uncommon.

The whole grain symbol can have two distinct meanings. The first being the “100% Whole Grain” symbol requires the product to have at least 16grams of a whole grain and be made with 100% whole grains and no unrefined grains or added grain products such as fiber. The second symbol “Whole Grain” can be used with products containing a minimum of 8 grams of whole grains but can have other non-whole grain ingredients with it. For example a bread label says “Whole grain flour, white flour, rice flour”. The whole grain flour is 22 grams per serving white flour is 20 grams per serving and rice flour is 1 gram per serving. The Whole Grain Label will note 22 grams on the Whole Grain label indicating how many grams of whole grains are in each serving.  The Whole Grain Council advises that 48 grams of whole grains a day could provide health benefits.

The Whole Grain Symbol is now on 11,000 different food products in 55 countries. So getting the word out on whole grains has become successful thanks to the Whole Grain Council. So what is all the fuss about whole grains? Well it is important to remember back some 100 years or more when refined grain consumption in large or exclusive amounts caused disease such as Beri Beri B-1 deficiency,(which may also be known as a form of nerve, muscle or heart disorders) and Pellagra B-3 deficiency (that can cause diarrhea, dementia and dermatitis). These nutrient deficiency diseases led scientist to discover vitamins. The solution for prevention of these nutrient deficiencies was to fortify grains with the lost vitamins known at the time. With this noted, we now know that eating whole grains as opposed to refined grains has many health benefits such as reduced cardiovascular disease risk, reduced risk of certain types of cancer including breast cancer. Whole grain consumption with fibers helps to maintain a healthy weight as well. So whole grains provide necessary nutrients as well as fiber and other phyto or plant based nutrients. In conclusion, including whole grains into our diet can have many great health benefits and also looking for the whole grain symbol might be a helpful way to make sure that you are getting enough whole grain. Remember to read labels carefully so that you can make the proper health decisions for you and your family.

Have a health related question?

Send us your question, your first and last name, and the city you live in to: askclarks@clarksnutrition.com

Due to the number of responses, we will only be able to answer published questions.

References:

  1. http://wholegrainscouncil.org/whole-grain-stamp
  2. http://wholegrainscouncil.org/whole-grain-stamp/stamp-faq-consumers
  3. Aluko, Functional Foods and Nutraceuticals, Springer LLC, New York, NY. 2012. Pg 4-22.
  4. Pitchford, Healing with Whole Foods 3rd North Atlantic Books Berkeley, CA 2002 Pg. 16-17