It doesn’t sound like much of a challenge – eating three slices of bread a day – but apparently it’s a challenge the vast majority of us are failing to meet.
New research from Newcastle University shows nearly 80% of British adults are not consuming the recommended 48 grams of wholegrain a day (which is the equivalent of three slices of wholegrain bread), and are stalling at just 20g. But why is something seemingly so simple, apparently so hard?
Some theories point to a general feeling that of ‘brown food’ is boring, while others wonder if everyone is perhaps now so wary of wheat or gluten intolerance that they’re shunning anything like bread or pasta.
Whatever the possible reasons behind the wholegrain boycott though, one fact remains: it needs to change.
“Studies have shown diets rich in wholegrain foods can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease (heart disease and stroke) certain types of cancer and Type 2 diabetes,” says Fiona Hunter, a leading nutritionist.
“The mechanisms by which wholegrains help prevent these diseases are not fully understood but may include antioxidant protection, the effect of fibre in the digestive tract and intake of phytochemicals.
“Higher wholegrain intake has been linked to lower body weight, BMI [body mass index] and cholesterol levels. Studies suggest that wholegrain foods may be more filling than their refined counterparts which may help body-weight regulation and reduce the urge for snacking between meals.
“A study of 50,000 US nurses found that those who ate a diet high in fibre and wholegrain food were least likely to be overweight.”
So now you know the whole truth about how important it is to up your quota, here are nine ways to do it:
“Start the day with some wholegrains at breakfast like porridge or muesli,” says Hunter. “If you don’t have time for a bowl of cereal then try breakfast biscuits which can provide wholegrain.” Hunter also suggests using porridge oats in crumble toppings.
Swap white bread for brown
“Swap white bread for wholemeal bread – look for the words ‘wholegrain’ or ‘wholemeal’ on the label.” It honestly doesn’t taste any worse.
White rice for brown
“Choose brown rice instead of white – look out for brown basmati and quick-cook brown rice.” Again, taste isn’t compromised.
And white flour for brown
“Use wholemeal flour for baking,” advises Hunter. “If you’re not used to baking with wholemeal flour start by substituting half the white flour with wholemeal. As you get used to cooking with wholemeal flour you can gradually increase the proportion.”
If you want an easy snack or a better basis for your hummus or cheese, “try oatcakes or wholemeal crackers instead of cream crackers,” Hunter says.
It seems super-healthy, and in many ways it is: but couscous is not as healthy as bulgur wheat when it comes to wholegrain.
Add barley to soups and stews - it makes them thicker, creamier and all-round better.
A nice one this: “Popcorn is a wholegrain so as a treat, swap crisps for unsalted sugar-free popcorn,” says Hunter.
“Corn on the cob is wholegrain so serve it as a vegetable or add sweetcorn to recipes like spaghetti bolognaise or chilli con carne.”
Fiona Hunter is a leading nutritionist and consultant for Belvita Breakfast Biscuits