Everyone knows that whole grain is better than white/refined products. So if we know this, why are refined products still on the market?

As the name suggests, refined grains have been processed and had the bran and germ removed from the grain cell, leaving just the inside starchy endosperm. The bran is the outer cell membrane that protects the cell and happens to be particularly high in fiber, protein and B Vitamins. The germ is the cell embryo and is rich in vitamins, minerals, and essential fatty acids.

After the grain has been refined, you are left with the starchy inner core of the cell, which is used to make white flour products, such as white bread. The same principle also applies to white refined rice and sugar. So while the general population continues to get half their calories from cereal derived foods, they’re receiving less than half of the nutrients they could be getting from eating the same foods but whole grain products instead.

Anyone for a history lesson? The refining of wheat products began during the shift in the evolution of human’s diets from hunting and gathering to agricultural cropping. This meant that instead of relying on a constant turnover of fresh food for small societies, people could start to sustain food for larger populations by growing large crops and storing food that doesn’t spoil quickly; cereals and grains.

As trade developed, the demand increased for refined, polished white rice as it weighed less to export and import and stored for longer, increasing profits. As white rice became increasingly consumed for these reasons, somehow so did the stigma associating brown rice with being ‘dirty’ and only fit for the poor, who couldn’t afford the processed rice that was seen as ‘sophisticated and modern’. The story is the same for wheat and corn products.

At the minute, whole grain products only make up 15-20% of grain products available at supermarkets in the UK, which means only 15-20% of the population choose whole grain. But now we’re all a bit more clued up on why refined products even exist. Hopefully, this figure will grow!

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