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Aussies Strengthen Whole Grain Guidelines

December 13, 2011

Australia's National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) released new draft versions of the Australian Dietary Guidelines and the Australian Guide to Healthy Eating today. Although the final version won't appear until next year – there's a comment period first – we're already applauding the change in language that applies to whole grains.

Here's what the current (2003) dietary guidelines say:

Eat plenty of cereals (including breads, rice, pasta and noodles), preferably wholegrain.

And here's the new draft:

Eat a wide variety of nutritious foods [including] grain (cereal) foods, mostly wholegrain, such as breads, cereals, rice, pasta, noodles, polenta, couscous, oats, quinoa and barley.

Yes, the differences are subtle. "Preferably wholegrain," in the current guidelines and Eating Guide, has the implication that you can take 'em or leave 'em; if you don't feel like whole grains, don't worry. "Mostly wholegrain" sends a stronger message – "Eat whole grains more often than refined grains."

It's also helpful that they've expanded the list of suggested grain foods. The old list – breads, rice, pasta, noodles – are all foods that conjure up a "white" image in most people's minds. The new list says "broaden your horizons" and includes foods like oats and quinoa that are available only in whole form, as a general rule.

The Australian Guide to Healthy Eating (the short version, for consumers) recommends 6 servings of grains total for men age 19-70 and women 19-50, with older women cutting back to 4 servings. Australian serving sizes are pretty much the same as recommended US serving sizes: 1 slice of bread, a half cup of cooked pasta, porridge or rice, 1 small English muffin, etc. Kids ages 2-18 should have 4 to 7 grain servings daily, mostly whole grain.

Here are a few excerpts we especially appreciated from the proposed Australian Dietary Guidelines (the long version, with scientific citations, for health professionals):

The evidence for the association of grain (cereal) foods (mostly wholegrain) with reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and excess weight gain has strengthened since the previous dietary guidelines.

To meet recommended food group intakes adults would require a 30% increase in grain (cereal) foods, comprising a 160% increase in current wholegrain consumption and a 30% decrease in refined grain (cereal) food consumption. For children over the age of 4 years, 20–60% more wholegrain foods and 10–30% less refined cereal foods would be required to meet recommended intakes.

Wholegrain foods are particularly important in vegetarian diets as a source of iron and zinc.

We'll see what happens in the final draft next year. In the meantime, we're happy to see that Australia is positioning whole grains as the new norm. (Cynthia)

We like their dietary graphic too, with less healthy foods off to the side in their own "only sometimes and in small amounts" section.


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