Until now there has been no complete, legally endorsed definition of whole grain flour and products. Last week, the Food and Nutrition Research journal issued what is being called the most comprehensive definition of whole grain termed to date. The definition is intended to assist in the production and labeling of foods rich in whole grains. It came to life during the HEALTHGRAIN EU project, considered the largest project to ever focus on cereals and health.
The study led by a multi-disciplinary team from several of Europe's leading food research institutes and universities says that the HEALTHGRAIN definition is the next step in reaching a precise, common understanding of what constitutes whole grain in food products. These range from breads to pasta to breakfast cereals regardless of where they originate, according to Jan-Willem van der Kamp, senior officer of International Projects at TNO Food and Nutrition and corresponding author of the paper. Most supermarkets today are stocked with foods that originate from many different countries, he said. When you read 25 percent whole grain flour on one product label, the same claim on a different label could mean something quite different nutritionally. If use of this definition is adopted broadly, this inconsistency eventually would cease.
Grains And Pseudo-Grains
The term whole grain almost universally indicates inclusion of all three components of the cereal grain kernel. The endosperm is the largest part of the grain and provides mostly starch. The germ comprises only a small part of the grain and is where sprouting begins. The bran is the grains protective outer layer and is rich in dietary fiber.
Variances arise around the grains considered whole the precise combination of the three components once processed, and processing practices which can affect the resulting flours nutritional value. The HEALTHGRAIN definition addresses all three of these issues detailing a permitted list of grains and pseudo grains and processing guidelines that take into account current milling practices.
The grains included are specified in the research as a wide range of cereal grains from the Poaceae family, and the pseudo-cereals amaranth, buckwheat, quinoa and wild rice. The definition also describes manufacturing processes allowed for producing wholegrain flours.
The research also compares the HEALTHGRAIN definition with previous definitions and provides more comprehensive explanations than in the definition itself regarding the inclusion of specific grains. It also sets out the permitted flour manufacturing processes.
The HEALTHRGRAIN EU project was intended to increase the use of whole grains and their health protecting constituents in food products for improved nutrition and health benefits. The project involved research to better understand specific health benefits of whole grains, and exploration of new ways to get products high in their healthy compounds onto the market. The need for developing a more comprehensive, detailed whole grain definition was identified during the course of the project.
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