How to tell if cereals are really whole grains

How to tell if cereals are really whole grains


Consuming whole grains is beneficial for the health of the body. In fact , pasta, rice , grains and products obtained with unrefined flours contain vitamins, mineral salts and proteins . To be sure that a cereal is wholemeal , it is essential to consult the label : the differences between the various wordings and the addition of percentages of bran , middlings or other flours could mislead the consumer because they would also give the appearance of wholemeal to a product which is not integral. A codified definition of whole food is missing, and therefore there are several different criteria to qualify such foods .

Characteristics of whole grain

  • Bran: outer layer contains fiber and antioxidants ;
  • Endosperm: reservoir for growth, rich in proteins
  • Germ : necessary for sprouting, rich in essential fats , vitamins E and group B and minerals such as magnesium, manganese and phosphorus.
  • It must not have undergone refining processes
  • On the label: 100% wholemeal product

Whole grain: how to recognize it

Within a balanced diet , it is recommended to introduce at least 50-60% whole grains . Buying products that are actually wholemeal, however, is not easy. Wordings such as: “source of fibre”, “wholemeal”, “bran” may appear on the packages, which however do not refer to a totally wholemeal product. In fact, it is not said that there is not a part of refined flour to make up the list of ingredients.

The whole grain must have a grain that preserves: the bran, which is the outer layer, a source of fiber and antioxidants; the endosperm, which is characterized by the presence of starches and proteins and which constitutes the energy reserve of the grain which favors the growth and development of the sprout and the plant; the germ, the liveliest part of the grain, rich in essential fats, vitamins E and group B and minerals such as magnesium, manganese and phosphorus.

Read the label

When can a product be defined as truly integral? When asked, nutrition specialists respond with: when a product is made entirely with flours that have not undergone an industrial refining process . The industrial manufacturing process, and therefore refining, impoverishes the flours in terms of protein, vitamins and minerals. Therefore, on the market there are biscuits, crackers , breadsticks and other baked goods that are not entirely wholemeal.

To confuse and mislead consumers is also the aesthetics of the food: the color , above all. When breadsticks, bread and rusks are browned, therefore brownish in colour, or there is a high fiber content, it does not mean that they are wholemeal.

To be sure, you need to read the label. It must have the wording ” wholemeal flour ” or ” 100% wholemeal “, and not ” wheat flour ” with percentages of bran, middlings or other flours. During refining, the grain is stripped of the bran and germ and the endosperm is reduced to powder to obtain white flour which has a different yield in terms of workability and greater conservation. However, despite the better resistance in the kitchen, there are also disadvantages compared to wholemeal flour, namely: high glycemic load , lack of fiber , antioxidants, vitamins and mineral salts.

Products made with refined flours subsequently added with bran cannot be defined as wholemeal because they do not contain the germ. Therefore, the whole ingredients must appear first on the label , i.e. whole wheat flour, whole oats , etc., and then the remaining list of ingredients in descending order.

What is middlings?

The presence of bran is often read on the label of baked goods. It does not necessarily characterize wholemeal products, but it is often an ingredient added to white flour. Not to be confused with bran, which makes up 14.5% of the grain of wheat. It is the residue from the grinding of the grain, consisting of flakes and flour. It is rich in protein , vitamin B3, lysine and phytic acid .

What cereals can really be whole grains?

In addition to whole wheat , which is the most consumed cereal, there are also other whole grains such as: rice , spelt , buckwheat , both as whole grains and as flour.

Wholemeal Flour vs White Flour

Wholemeal flour and white flour are not only different in appearance, taste , workability or storage, but above all in their protein, mineral and carbohydrate content. Compared to white flour, wholemeal flour is less caloric as it has a lower concentration of carbohydrates , but contains a higher quantity of all other nutrients . It also helps reduce fat absorption .

In the tables below, the comparison. The first table shows the nutritional characteristics of white flour, the second table of wholemeal flour.


Table: White Flour

Flour 00
Nutritional values  ​​per 100 g Amount
Power 342.5  kcal
total carbohydrates 78.00 g
Starch 76.3g
Simple sugars 1.7g
fibers 2.5g
Fats 0.67g
Saturated 0.16g
Monounsaturated 0.08g
Polyunsaturated 0.43g
Cholesterol 0.0 mg
Protein 11.0g
Waterfall 14.2g
Vitamin A  equivalent 0.0 RAE
Beta-Carotene -µg
Lutein  Zexanthin -µg
Vitamin A -UI
Thiamine or  vitamin B1 0.10 mg
Riboflavin  or  vitamin B2 0.03 mg
Niacin or vit PP or vit B3 1.00 mg
Pantothenic acid  or vitamin B5 – mg
Pyridoxine or  vitamin B6 0.15 mg
folate 0.0µg
Vitamin B12  or  cobalamin 0.0µg
Choline -mg
C vitamin 0.0 mg
Vitamin D 0.0µg
Vitamin E 0.16 mg
Vitamin K 0.3µg
Soccer 17.0 mg
Iron 0.70 mg
Magnesium 38.0 mg
Manganese -mg
Phosphorus 76.0 mg
Potassium 126.0 mg
Sodium 2.0 mg
Zinc 0.6 mg
Fluoride -µg

Table: Wholemeal Flour

Chemical composition value per 100g RDA (%)
Edible part 100%
Waterfall 13.40g
Available carbohydrates 67.80g
Complex carbohydrates 59.70g
Soluble sugars 2.10 g
Protein 11.90 g
Fats (lipids) 1.90 g
Total saturated
total monounsaturated
Total polyunsaturated
Cholesterol 0
Total fiber 8.40 g
Soluble fiber 1.92g
Insoluble fiber 6.51 g
Alcohol (g) 0
Sodium 3 mg 0.20% RDA
Potassium 337mg 7.17% RDA
Iron 3 mg 37.50% RDA
Soccer 28 mg 2.80% RDA
Phosphorus 300mg 42.86% RDA
Magnesium N/A
Zinc N/A
Copper N/A
Selenium N/A
Thiamine (Vit. B1) 0.40 mg 33.33% RDA
Riboflavin (Vit. B2) 0.16 mg 12.31% RDA
Niacin (Vit. B3 or PP) 5 mg 31.25% RDA
Vitamin A retinol eq. 0 µg 0% RDA
C vitamin 0 mg 0% RDA
Vitamin E 0.40 mg 2.67% RDA
Vitamin B6 N/A
Vitamin B12 N/A
Manganese N/A


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