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Bread and Whole Grains

What are whole grains? Why should they be part of your diet and how will you know which bakery goods are (really) made of whole grains?

Whole grain breads. Image: Gal Dern

What exactly are whole grains?

The awareness of the importance of consuming whole grains over processed grains (cereals) has been growing in recent years. According to the new government dietary guidelines and the nutrition rainbow, it is recommended to consume them on a daily basis. But what is the difference between whole and processed grains?
Whole grains retain all of the plant's components, including the bran and the cereal germ that have high nutritional values and their dietary fiber content is significant. On the other hand, products that have undergone different processes in the food industry, such as peeling, have actually become “refined” grains like white flour, white rice, semolina etc. and their nutritional values are significantly reduced as a result of processing.

Important – "grain-enriched" products or products "with whole grains" are not whole grains. The former products are actually refined grains with added synthetic vitamins and minerals, the latter are products with an unknown quantity of whole grains, which can be small and insignificant.

What are the benefits of whole grains to our diet?

Most grain consumption in the Western diet comes from breads, pastries, pasta and cereals. Leading health organizations in the world and Israel recommend regular consumption of whole grains as part of our daily diet, as they are a good source of vitamins, minerals, dietary fiber, antioxidants and many other compounds. In addition, consuming whole grains helps you feel full, helps slowing down sugar uptake into the blood and supports normal digestive activity. Studies have shown that consuming whole grains helps reduce the risk of mortality from diseases such as atherosclerosis, cancer, hypertension and obesity.

Bulgur stew with vegetables – healthy, delicious and easy to prepare (chef: Meirav Puritz, image: Osnat Rom)

“Whole”, ”Light” and “Healthy”: how can you choose the healthier product?

The shelves are full of many types of bread, rolls and flat breads (pita) with labeling to imply a healthy product, but not all of them are made of whole grain flour. Food colorings, caramel, brown sugar or molasses are added to make them look dark. To choose the healthier option, read the ingredients list and select a product that is based on whole flour and has the green symbol.

"This product complies with the Ministry of Health’s guidelines for a healthier diet
Want to eat healthier?
Look for the EfshariBari label on bread packaging"

When it comes to other grain products, it is important to check the list of ingredients and check the type of grains – whether they are processed or whole grains. It is also recommended to choose products with larger quantities of dietary fiber.

Further reading

Whole grain breads – Ministry of Health Nutrition Division
The article on BMJ about the association between whole grain consumption and risk of diseases
A BMJ overview highlighting the importance of substituting refined grain bread with whole grain bread
Detailed position paper for professionals in Hebrew – the health benefits of whole wheat bread, Nutrition Division at the Ministry of Health
The new governmental dietary guidelines / the Ministry of Health (in Hebrew)