The Wholegrain Experience
Introduction to Wholegrains
Grains consist of three components: Endosperm, germ and bran. To be qualified as wholegrains, all three components should be present. Wholegrains are known for being a good source of fibre but they are also rich in vitamins, minerals, disease-fighting phytochemicals and antioxidants. As compared to refined grains, wholegrains have higher nutritive value and because of their intact structure, they have lower glycemic index.
Incorporating wholegrains into daily diet will help to reduce weight, blood pressure and colorectal cancer. The presences of antioxidant such as vitamin E, phytic acid and selenium and minerals like magnesium helps to maintain glucose and insulin homeostasis which reduces risk of Type 2 Diabetes as well as Cardiovascular Disease. Being known for its good source of fibre, it helps to lower blood cholesterol and increase bulk to facilitate bowel movement.
Wholegrains around Singapore
Health Promotion Board (HPB) are encouraging Singaporeans to consume more wholegrains, more outlets are offering healthier options and incorporating different types of wholegrains into their dishes.
When it comes to wholegrains, brown rice, (糙米, cāo mǐ) is one of the well-known grain that many Singaporeans are familiar with. This grain is moving out from the realm of health food and vegetarian eateries and now, showing up in hawker centres and restaurants. A huge company had a collaboration with a large hospital in Singapore to launch the first ever ‘Healthy Kopitiam’. The vendors offer Healthier Choice Dishes that has been approved by HPB and a 30% discount for those who opt for brown rice or brown rice vermicelli. A few other branches with this concept has sprouted to a few other hospitals in Singapore.
Apart from the kopitiams, establishment in Singapore are encouraging wholegrains eating by making healthier option readily available at their dining outlets without any additional service charge. Fast food restaurants are also replacing some of their refined breads with wholegrains bread to encourage healthy eating. Other fast food chains have switched the use of processed noodles (eg: beehoon & yellow noodles) to brown rice based noodle (eg: Brown rice bee hoon, Brown rice noodles)
There are more to wholegrains than just brown rice and people are exploring the use of other wholegrains. A few eateries located round the Central Business District (CBD) area are using other grains like quinoa into their dishes. One of the eatery there uses quinoa in majority of their dishes and in fact, their signature dish is quinoa based. They do offer local cuisines with a twist of healthier options.
Based on experience, it is easy to whip up any dish using other grains apart from brown rice. I’ve tried making millet once for dinner in a salad together with baked salmon and it was easy to prepare. The preparation method for cooking the millet is similar to cooking rice. The millet is first roasted with 1 teaspoon of butter (or margarine) until it slightly brown before adding in water. Just like cooking rice, the amount of water depends on the type of texture that you want your millet to be cooked. The toasting of the millet brings out the nutty flavour which brings flavours to the dish.
Type of Grain Products
You can find many type of ‘grain’ products in the supermarket. Ranging from multi-grain product to whole grain and whole meal bread. So what exactly are the differences among all of them?
Multi-grain products are made from a mixture of 3 – 5 different types of grain, which does not necessarily use wholegrains in their product. Whereas for whole grain products, they are made from unrefined grains where the three component of the grains are still intact. Products made from wholegrains are generally higher in nutritive value as compared to multi-grain products.
To ensure that your product is made from the goodness of wholegrains
- Look at the description of the product for wholegrain, whole meal, sprouted whole grain wheat flour, brown rice, oats or oatmeal
Product with ‘enriched’ or ‘high fibre’ on the packaging are not considered wholegrain products. These products with such nutritional claims have been processed to increase its nutritive value.
- Look at the ingredient list as wholegrain should ideally be listed as the first few ingredients on the product ingredient list
Ingredient list are placed in descending order, with the ingredient constituting the most in the product. Hence, having wholegrains as the first few ingredients on the list would ensure that the product is a wholegrain product.
- Look for ‘Higher in wholegrains Healthier Choice Symbol endorsed by Health Promotion Board or ‘Wholegrains’ stamp by the Wholegrain Council (WC) in US.
Both HPB and Wholegrain Council are non-profitable organization. The labels produced by them follows a guideline and they certified that the product is made from wholegrains. The stamp endorse by WC can be found on imported products.
Enjoy wholegrain goodness
- Switch your morning routine– Enjoy breakfast that include whole-grains cereal, whole-wheat bran flakes, shredded wheat or oatmeal
- Use Brown rice- Start off by mixing white rice and brown rice together and then gradually increase the amount of brown rice used
- Try wheat alternatives– wholegrain pasta, bread and crackers made from rice
- At bakeries– can introduce a large variety of wholegrain products like replace half of white or plain flour with whole wheat flour in their recipes
It is recommended that an average Singaporean adult should try to consume ≥ 1 serving of wholegrains and according to the National Nutrition Survey 2010, there has been an improvement in the number of people meeting the guidelines from 2004 (8.7%) to 2010 (27%). To obtain the full benefits of incorporating wholegrains into your diet, it is recommended to follow HPB’s dietary advice – My Healthy Plate – of having a balanced diet of fruits and vegetables, wholegrains and meat.
Click here to read on the effects of different amount of water use for cooking!
Brown rice options. (2016, June 26). Retrieved August 30, 2016, from http://www.straitstimes.com/lifestyle/food/brown-rice-options
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Ye, E. Q., Chacko, S. A., Chou, E. L., Kugizaki, M., & Liu, S. (2012). Greater Whole-Grain Intake Is Associated with Lower Risk of Type 2 Diabetes, Cardiovascular Disease, and Weight Gain. Journal of Nutrition, 142(7), 1304-1313. doi:10.3945/jn.111.155325
Written By: Heng Jos Lyn
Diploma of Applied Food Science and Nutrition