Whole Grain Q&A and Panel Discussion

Here’s a Whole Grain Q& A and panel discussion in honour of International Whole Grain Day this November 19, 2020.

Yesterday, I had the honour to participate in the University of Manitoba’s Café Scientifique Panel Discussion on Whole Grains as shown below. In this article, I’d like to share the presentation and follow-up on some of the questions we weren’t able to cover last night.

description of panel discussion and panelists
Session description and panelists.

You can view the presentation here:

Participant Questions – Whole Grain Q&A

We covered a lot of ground in our discussion but still there were several questions that we weren’t able to get to. I’m happy to address those that I can, here. But before I do, here’s my disclaimer.

I am a Professional Home Economist.  My role on the panel, as it is in this blog and in my work as a Freelance Home Economist is to provide practical advice on how to apply the findings of nutrition experts and researchers like Dr. Carla Taylor, Dr. Peter Zahradka and Dr. James House to our every day routines. I am not qualified to offer advice on specific diets or make recommendations to individuals about their individual dietary needs, for that I highly recommend working with a Registered Dietitian. My answers to the questions below are my personal opinions and do not reflect the opinions or advice of the other panel members or the UM.

With that said, here are my thoughts and responses to participant questions:

1.Do trends like “cauliflower rice” and “zucchini noodles” take away too much emphasis from grain products?

I love a good zucchini noodle and don’t see these type of dishes being an issue as long as people get the variety of foods recommended in Canada’s Food Guide throughout the day. If you had oatmeal for breakfast, a quinoa salad for lunch, hummus and whole grain crackers for snack, cauliflower crust pizza for supper and popcorn for an evening snack – you’re doing great! Keep enjoying a variety of foods from all food groups.

2.How misleading is the food industry with labelling food as heart healthy with minimally met standardized requirements and how can we push to set standards to ensure food labeled as heart healthy MEAN heart healthy?

Sadly, marketing initiatives aren’t always in our best interest and campaigns that do are typically limited to those who pay to participate – often leaving out players who offer great products but that can’t afford to join. And setting rigourous standards that everyone can agree on – is difficult – about as difficult as herding cats! The result is standards you may consider water downed. The fact is that the onus to be aware has and always will be on us as consumers. We need to ignore random claims on packaging and learn how to read the ingredient list and the Nutrition Fact labels as shown here by the Dietitians of Canada.

3.Now adays some people prefer high protein diets, but whole grains normally contain more carbohydrates, so what’s your suggestions for the high protein demanding groups. In addition, what’s your opinion about the supplement of protein powder?

I am not a Registered Dietitian or nutrition researcher so I don’t like to comment about specific diets or supplements. That said, in general, if you are in good health with no underlying conditions or intolerances, I believe there is strong evidence across the globe that supports following a diet like the one represented by Canada’s Food Guide, one that emphasizes fruits and veggies and a variety of protein and whole grain options with limited processed foods and foods that are high in sugar, fat and salt. Every food group represented on that plate offers something uniquely beneficial to our health, eliminating whole groups, should only be done under close supervision by a medical professional or Registered Dietitian who can provide credible advice based on an individuals situation.

As for supplements, for the general public in good health, I support getting nutrients from whole foods versus supplements. We are still discovering new compounds in foods and their health benefits all the time and don’t fully understand how they interact with each other.  The whole is greater than the sum of its parts – simply isolating a single compound in a powder or pill form is not the same. Again, I highly recommend getting professional advice.

4.Anti-inflammatory diets (such as the Whole30, keto, AIP) cut out all grains, including gluten-free ones, due to phytates and inflammatory proteins, which persist regardless of soaking, fermenting, etc. Do the benefits outweigh the risks?

I do not have the knowledge to answer this question.

5.Can you describe the benefits of sprouted whole grains and try to continue the conversation that dismantles the “need for protein” myth?

I am just beginning to explore sprouted whole grains and it does seem there are some benefits when done correctly and safely. Sprouting makes some nutrients in grains more bioavailable – starches are turned into simple sugars and proteins undergo changes that make them easier to digest.

However, it does require some expertise to know the right moment to stop the sprouting process before nutrients start to degrade. You also need to be careful not to grow salmonella along with your sprouted grains – the warm, moist conditions needed to sprout grains are ideal for salmonella too. So if you do plan on sprouting grains, do so carefully and follow the advice of a trusted source.

Here’s a tip left by an audience member:

Tips: Soak whole grains overnight in the fridge and incorporate into pizza dough or bread at 20% (can barely tell it is there).  Add rye berries 1Tbsp into oatmeal.

As for dismantling the “need for protein” myth.

It seems we have become obsessed about our protein intake. Of course protein is an important nutrient, there’s no arguing that. But the fact is most Canadians are getting plenty of protein. Protein deficiency is not a concern in Canada. Trust that eating a variety of foods every day, as recommended in the Food Guide, will provide all the protein you need. All the credible, well respected food experts and food guides across the world agree. Here’s what Marion Nestle, author and professor emeritus of nutrition, food studies and public health at New York University says on the issue.

“People are very concerned about protein, but it’s a nonissue, it’s in grains, it’s in vegetables, it’s everywhere. It will find you. If you are getting enough calories, then you are getting enough protein” says . Like many Registered Dietitians and credible, well respected food experts, she adds, “varying food intake and eating enough food takes care of amino acid balance.”

6.Do you have advice for how to support local Manitoba farmers with purchase options to obtain whole grains on a yearly basis? I have obtained Rye berries and would love to find a source for whole wheat berries.

Finding whole grains and whole grain flour can, unfortunately, be tricky! Here are five options to consider:

1.Try direct, local options first. Look for farmers that sell direct or for farmer’s markets where you can meet the local growers and producers. Check out this directory at DirectFarmMB. Many farmers now offer online shopping and convenient delivery/pick-up options. If you want to support local farmers, this direct route is your best bet.

2.Check out local CSAs (Community Supported Agriculture). A CSA is where you pay for a share of a farmer’s harvest. Typically you pay at the beginning of the season, the farmer grows and harvests the crop and delivers it to you throughout the season. You’ll get a bounty – but exactly how much, when and what you get depends on the growing season. Usually a CSA offers fruits and vegetables, but Manitoba also has a Grain CSA operated by Adagio Acres Farm. In this bundle you get a variety of grains and legumes delivered to you.

3.Shop at small local retailers or specialty stores that sell products from local growers and producers.

4.If you’re shopping at larger grocery store chains, look for whole grains in the flour aisle, bulk bins, cereal aisle (next to the oats and granola) or in the Organic section. This is where you’ll find packages of grains like farro, freekeh, wheat berries, quinoa, etc.

5.Bulk stores are another place where you can find a variety of whole grains.

7.Do gluten free diets for those who have gut issues have any value?

I recommend you speak with a Registered Dietitian. They can dig a little deeper to identify what kind of gut issues you might be having and suggest a diet that would work for you.

Use this tool by the Dietitians of Canada to find a Registered Dietitian. Many of their services are covered under health insurance.

8.Can you please let us know what is the best whole grain or which one do you rank 1 in the whole grains? or did you actually go through any specific brands which you think are awesome

The best whole grain is the one you eat! You probably won’t love all whole grains equally, so try different kinds and experiment. Just like with fruits and veggies or with the protein foods, you’ll get the greatest nutritional benefit when you eat a variety of different whole grains in different ways.

Grains vary in protein, fibre, nutrients, texture, flavour, availability and ease of cooking. It’s impossible to say there is one that outranks all the others.

types of whole grains
There are so many whole grains to try, each offering slightly different nutritional benefits. Trying different ones will keep your meals interesting and offer you a variety of nutritional benefits.

9.So what is whole grains direct link to fibre? Use to be 3g per serving guideline so what is accurate now?

There are so many different whole grains and each one has a unique nutrient profile. Here’s a chart from the Whole Grain Council showing the fibre content of different whole grains.

fibre in whole grains chart

10.Manitoba will soon have two pea processing plants active. Why does the food industry take a whole food, process it into its various components and add it to other items and then make something like fake meat? Why don’t we just eat the peas?

Such an important question that highlights how supply and demand works and how at odds our actual eating patterns are from what we know to be good for us.

The challenge for producers is that consumers are simply not eating peas, beans or grains in their whole form. There is very little consumer demand for whole grains or whole legumes. Consumers, instead are demanding high protein, nutrient dense ready to eat foods.

The market is responding. And now we see several processing plants ready to give consumers what they want – convenient, processed high protein foods.

The benefit to Manitoba is that our producers have a local buyer and we can export a value added product.

The industry responds to consumer demand. If we’re going to change that, we need to drive up demand for whole foods by eating more whole foods!

I want to help make that happen by helping learn how to cook and enjoy those whole foods.

11. Grains added to smoothies would change the coarseness- does this change the health of the grain?

I too am very curious about how significant the difference is between fine ground whole grains and intact whole grains. At the 53-59 minute mark in the video, we chatted a little bit about this topic. Dr. Carla Taylor mentioned the glycemic index of instant oats (very small/thin flakes) is much higher than large flake oats – which means they release glucose more quickly and can cause blood sugar spikes in our body, compared to larger flakes that take longer for our body to convert. Dr. Peter Zahradka also mentioned (at about 55 minutes in) that really fine, powdered legumes are not as effective in their health benefits as more coarse ground legumes. While both researchers were cautious about making any recommendations based on this limited research, I’ll risk making some general assumptions.

Again, I can’t answer your question with specific facts or referenced information, but for what it’s worth, here are my opinions/thoughts for individuals who do not have any underlying health conditions or intolerances:

  • Add whole grains if you can – in your smoothie, having pulverized grains or legumes is adding more nutrients than not including grains or legumes. The dilemma here is between added nutrients and added calories. Are you getting enough whole grains or pulses elsewhere? Do the whole grains/legumes replace something less nutritious? For example in baking using ground whole oat flour to replace ground white flour is a better option, even though it’s ground.
  • Keep grains as intact as you can – assuming that the same is true for grains as for legumes – bigger is better for overall health benefits and for blood sugar levels.
  • Eat a variety of whole grains – just like eating different vegetables and fruits in different ways throughout the day – eat whole grains in different formats at different times of days to take advantage of the different benefits they offer.

12.What is “white whole wheat flour” and what is “graham flour”?

White whole wheat flour is whole wheat flour made from white wheat – a variety of wheat. Most of the wheat we grow in Manitoba is red wheat – the kernels have a red tinge. White wheat varieties don’t have those colour pigments. This type of wheat has been grown in Australia for decades and in the US since the 80’s. If you search, you can find whole white wheat flour for sale in Canada.

According to the Whole Grains Council, white wheat does not contain the strongly-flavored phenolic compounds that are in red wheat. This gives white wheat a milder flavor, and also means that products made with white wheat require less added sweetener to attain the same level of perceived sweetness. That means it looks and tastes more like the white refined flour we’ve become used to.

Graham flour is coarse ground flour. It is named after Sylvester Graham who encouraged people to grind their own flour at home in the late 1800’s. As you can imagine, grinding wheat at home produces more coarse results than the big rollers that became popular in the industrial age. It didn’t take long for graham flour and the products made with it – graham bread and graham crackers to be replaced by more refined bread products. Today’s graham crackers, sadly, are no longer made with graham flour. If you mill your own flour – you could call it graham flour.

13.Is there a benefit to including a variety of whole grains? Outside the standard corn, wheat, rice, do grains like amaranth and buckwheat include additional important nutrients or a better nutrient profile?

Yes! Just like there’s a benefit to eating a variety of protein sources and a variety of fruits and vegetables there are benefits to eating a variety of whole grains. Each type of grain, cooked in different ways and used in different forms potentially offers slightly different nutrients and phytochemicals (compounds in foods that aren’t nutrients but that offer health benefits). We may not be able to pinpoint exactly what or how – but we know that those differences do exist. Have another look at the list above and see what other whole grains you’d like to try next.

Whole Grain Recipes & Info

Here’s a list of some of the tips and recipes for whole grains that you’ll find on this site.

How to Cook and Freeze Whole Grains
Everything You Want to Know About Whole Grains
Why Whole Wheat Doesn’t Mean Whole Grain in Canada
Whole Grain Salad with Kale and Butternut Squash
Pomegranate and Whole Grain Salad
Orange and Wheat Salad
Thai Power Bowl with Almond Butter Dressing
Wheatberry and Saskatoon Salad
Quinoa and Black Bean Salad
Vegetable Quinoa and Red Lentil Soup Mix
Parsley and Barley Salad– Tabbouleh
Beef and Barley Soup
Lime and Corn Quinoa (hot side dish)
Brown and Wild Rice Pilaf
Wild Rice Stuffed Acorn Squash
Southern Beef ‘n Brown Rice
Soup Mix in a Jar
Homemade Granola
Carrot Cake Granola
Grapefruit and Granola Parfait
Homemade Instant Oatmeal
Rhubarb Overnight Oats
Apple Pie Overnight Oats
50/50 Whole Wheat Bread
50/50 Whole Wheat Buns
Nutty Cranberry Oat Muffins
Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies
Coffee Lover’s Energy Bars
Homemade Chocolate Energy Bars

I’d love to hear about your experience with whole grains and which ones you love and use the most. Share your recipes, leave a comment or tag me on your instagram photos #getgettys so I can see and like your creations.

 Sign up to get articles by Getty delivered to your inbox. You’ll get recipes, practical tips and great food information like this. Getty is a Professional Home Economist,  speaker and writer putting good food on tables and agendas.  She is the author of Manitoba’s best-selling Prairie Fruit Cookbook, Founder of Fruit Share, a mom and veggie gardener.

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