A new whole grains fact sheet aims to provide consumers with easy to understand information on the healthy grains: what they are, what they do and where to find them.
Published by the International Food Information Council (IFIC), the information is designed to act as a point of reference for consumers who are trying to eat more whole grains but remain confused about their health effects and sources.
An industry-supported organization that aims to communicate science-based information on food safety and nutrition, IFIC believes that more awareness and education about whole grains is necessary in order to help consumers reach the recommended daily intake levels.
Another important factor to help achieve this is an increased availability of easy to identify whole grain foods, said the group.
Whole grains have gained increasing popularity since the US government issued its 2005 Dietary Guidelines, which included the advice that Americans should consume upwards of three ounce-equivalents of whole grain products per day. At least half the grains consumed should be whole grains.
Whole-grain foods are a rich source of both insoluble and soluble dietary fiber. Soluble fiber has been shown to help lower LDL (bad) cholesterol levels, and so has been linked to a reduced risk of heart disease. Insoluble fiber also has been associated with decreased cardiovascular disease risk. And an increasing body of scientific evidence is emerging to confirm the link between whole grains and heart health.
In February the FDA issued draft guidelines setting out what it understands to be whole grains - that is, cereal grains consisting of the intact, ground, cracked or flaked fruit of the grains whose starchy endosperm, germ and bran are present in the same relative proportions as in the intact grain.
These definitions were intended to help manufacturers understand what the FDA considers appropriate for food labels making whole grain statements, and for consumers to have consistent guidance on what whole grain entails. However, while the guidance supports manufactures making quantitative statements about the amount of whole grains in their products - such as '100 percent whole grain' or '10 grams of whole grains' - this is often not sufficient guidance for consumers, who often do not understand quantitative statements.
The new Whole Grains Fact Sheet could contribute to dispelling some of this confusion, while also promoting understanding and increasing consumption.
The US food industry has already taken steps to provide clear labeling that helps consumers quickly identify whole grain foods: two whole grain symbols have started appearing on growing numbers of products on supermarket shelves.
One popular stamp that has come to be associated by many as an indication of a product's whole grain content is the Whole Grain Stamp, introduced by the Whole Grains Council (WGC) in 2005. The characteristic the black-and-gold stamps, which indicate the number of grams of whole grain ingredients in a serving, currently appear on nearly 800 products seen on shelves in the US.
And the American Heart Association's (AHA) red and white heart-check mark is also growing on the back of whole grain claims. The symbol, which is currently found on 800 products, identifies products that meet the requirements of the AHA's Food Certification Program, including fat, salt and nutrient content levels. The mark last year added a whole grain category to its nutritional certification program, and around 30 products currently feature the association's whole grain version.
To access the IFIC Whole Grains Fact Sheet, click here.