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Whole Grains Rising.

Byline: Diane Quagliani

Are they the best thing since sliced bread?

Many popular diets of the past several years have been unkind to carbohydrates and, in particular, the carbs found in grain foods such as bread, cereal, pasta and rice. But shunning all grains -- particularly whole grains -- can be a missed opportunity for good health and enjoyable eating.

Whole grains (e.g., oatmeal, whole wheat flour, brown rice, popcorn) include the entire grain kernel, composed of the bran, germ and endosperm, which keeps healthful components like fiber, vitamins, minerals and beneficial phytonutrients intact. With refined grains (e.g., white flour, white rice, de-germed cornmeal), all or most of the bran and germ are removed, although certain vitamins and minerals may be added back later.

Whole grains are sometimes dubbed "good carbs" or "high-quality carbs" for good reason. Healthful diets that include whole grains are linked to lower risk for cardiovascular disease, obesity, type 2 diabetes and some types of cancer.

Whole Grains Gain Traction

Despite the healthful attributes of whole grains, many people aren't reaping the benefits. On average, Americans consume not quite one serving daily, according to government food intake surveys, well short of the three daily servings recommended for good health by the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

The popularity of whole grains is rising, however, according to the 2016 Food and Health Survey conducted by the Washington, D.C.-based International Food Information Council Foundation. One in five (20 percent) people surveyed have an improved opinion about the healthfulness of whole grains, with 70 percent of them consuming more whole grains than before.

Growing attention to ancient grains and sprouted grains also suggests that whole grains are gaining traction with consumers. Less-familiar ancient grains like amaranth, farro, spelt and millet -- as well as the now-ubiquitous quinoa -- appear in conventional supermarkets and as ingredients in national brands of cereal, bread, snacks, frozen meals, bars and more. Likewise, sprouted-grain products such as breads and cereals, touted for easier digestion and enhanced nutrition, are also going mainstream.

Promoting Whole Grains at Retail

Although whole grains are making headway, many consumers still aren't aware of them and their health benefits, or are wary of trying them. Some common barriers to trial are thinking that whole grains won't taste good, are expensive or are hard to prepare.

To counter these barriers, tap into your retail dietitians, who can educate shoppers about the health benefits of whole grains, advise recommended amounts in a healthful diet, help shoppers identify whole grain foods, and encourage consumption by highlighting familiar options like oatmeal, whole wheat bread, brown rice and popcorn.

To promote less-common whole grains, host tastings to give shoppers a no-risk way to experience the nutty flavor and satisfyingly chewy texture characteristic of many varieties. Providing simple recipes, basic cooking information, lists of quick-cooking whole grains, and delicious whole grain selections in the deli or on the salad bar can help, too.

And since the gluten-free trend is still going strong, point out the many whole grains that are gluten-free, including traditional options like corn and rice, as well as trendy ancient grains like amaranth, millet, teff -- and, yes, quinoa.

Retail dietitians can educate shoppers about the health benefits of whole grains, help shoppers identify whole grain foods and encourage consumption by highlighting familiar options.

Registered dietitian Diane Quagliani, MBA, RDN, LDN, specializes in nutrition communications for consumer and health professional audiences. She has assisted national retailers and CPGs with nutrition strategy, web content development, trade show exhibiting, and the creation and implementation of shelf tag programs.
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Author:Quagliani, Diane
Publication:Progressive Grocer
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Nov 1, 2016
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