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July 26, 2012 by EDITOR
Have We All Gone Multigrain Crazy?


Multigrain snacks have proliferated throughout the food industry, but are these products really healthy as what their labels suggest?


7-grain, 12-grain, whole wheat, all-natural multi-grain, whole grain whole wheat....What, what, what?

Just take a look at the products on the shelves of your local grocery store. There is a healthy multigrain substitute for everything - be it bread, noodles, biscuits or chips. Most brands are exploiting the multigrain craze that has caught the fancy of people of late. However, are they really healthy as these companies claim?

Each whole grain has a different strength, so breads that use a variety of whole grains help you take in a greater range of benefits. For instance, flax seeds are rich in lignan, an antioxidant that may protect against breast cancer, while barley helps lower cholesterol. If you consume both of these in one slice of bread you get to enjoy the benefits of both.

Nutritionists and dieticians are divided in their opinion. "Always look for the ingredients listed on the packet and the percentage of multigrain before choosing any product," says Sindhu, chief dietician at a city hospital. She says even if the percentage of multigrain is 20 or 30% it will be a better choice than products made using refined flour. However, Mumtaz Khalid Ismail, NRHM nutrition consultant, says, "food manufacturers add a little bit of multigrain to their otherwise processed grain products so they can claim on the packages that it is a healthy substitute."

Other experts suggest nothing less than 100% whole grain is worth your buck. Multi-grain breads aren't always better: First, to be the healthiest contender, a bread label that says "multigrains" must also say "100% whole grains" somewhere on the package. Otherwise, the bakery may be throwing a couple whole grains in with a ton of refined grains, which sidesteps almost all the nutritional benefits.

Check the label

"Manufacturers have to list ingredients in the order of highest to lowest. Mostly a product contains the most of whatever is listed first. If whole wheat or wholegrain isn't the first ingredient, then the food must have been made with processed grains such as white flour, which is sometimes called wheat flour or enriched wheat flour," she says.

Don't Compare Apples to Oranges

Even those legit multi-grain breads often have nearly the same nutritional profile as whole wheat bread because they use mainly wheat with tiny amounts of those other whole grains (even though they may market those other grains in a big way on the package). Most companies do not list the amount of each whole grain they use on their packages. The best clue is how close to the top of the ingredients list the whole grains are. Look for breads that list their whole grains (such as oats, flax seeds, barley, etc.) as a main ingredient, rather than in a sub-list of ingredients that each contribute less than 2% of the makeup of the bread.

Multiple combos not for all

Mumtaz also warns that multigrain is not good for everyone. "One combination is better than multiple combinations. Most multigrain products contain soya, which has phytoestrogen, which is somewhat similar to the female hormone oestragon. For the very reason I don't recommend that for boys," she says.

Brown bread is not wheat bread

The so-called brown bread is often mistaken for wheat bread. "In fact, brown bread has no wheat content. The manufacturers just add caramel and food colour to it. It if is 100% wheat bread, it won't be soft and won't taste good. The manufacturers use levelling agents and stabilisers to make any bread soft," she says.

High on fibre and fat

The same is the case with high-fibre biscuits. It may be high in fibre but high on fat content too. So if you think you have to control your cholesterol, then you should consume such products in moderation," says Sindhu. The next time you shop, take a look at the ingredients list first before making your choice.


15 common whole wheat and whole grain breads:
Earthgrains 100% Stone Ground Whole Wheat Bread
Earthgrains 7-Grain Bread
Ezekiel 4:9 Sprouted 100% Whole Grain Bread
Milton's Multi-Grain Plus Bread
Milton's 100% Whole Wheat Bread
Oroweat Country 100% Whole Wheat Bread
Oroweat 100% Whole Wheat Bread
Pepperidge Farm 15-Grain Bread
Pepperidge Farm 100% Whole Wheat Bread
Roman Meal 100% Whole Grain Bread
Roman Meal 100% Whole Wheat Bread
Sara Lee Classic 100% Whole Wheat Bread
Sara Lee Hearty & Delicious All-Natural 100% Multigrain
Western Hearth 12-Grain Bread
Western Hearth Whole Wheat Bread

Breads With Higher Content of Multi-Grains
Ezekiel 4:9 Sprouted 100% Whole Grain Bread
Milton's Multi-Grain Plus Bread
Roman Meal 100% Whole Grain Bread
Western Hearth 12-Grain Bread


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