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The Whole Grains Council has created an oﬃcial packaging symbol called the Whole Grain Stamp that helps consumers ﬁnd real whole grain products. The Stamp started to appear on store shelves in mid-2005 and is becoming more widespread every day.
The Whole Grain Stamp makes it easy
With the Whole Grain Stamp, ﬁnding three servings of whole grains is easy: Pick three foods with the 100% Stamp or six foods with ANY Whole Grain Stamp.
The 100% Stamp assures you that a food contains a full serving or more of whole grain in each labeled serving and that ALL the grain is whole grain, while the basic Whole Grain Stamp appears on products containing at least half a serving of whole grain per labeled serving.
But what if there is no Stamp?
Until the Whole Grain Stamp is on all foods, how can consumers know if a product is whole grain?
First, check the package label. Many whole grain products not yet using the Stamp will list the grams of whole grain somewhere on the package, or say something like “100% whole wheat.” You can trust these statements. But be skeptical if you see the words “whole grain” without more details, such as “crackers made with whole grain.” The product may contain only miniscule amounts of whole grains.
|Words you may see on packages||What they mean|
||YES — Contains all parts of the grain, so you’re getting all the nutrients of the whole grain.|
||MAYBE — These words are accurate descriptions of the package contents, but because some parts of the grain MAY be missing, you are likely missing the beneﬁts of whole grains. When in doubt, don’t trust these words!|
||NO — These words never describe whole grains.|
Note that words like “wheat,” “durum,” and “multigrain” can (and do) appear on good whole grain foods, too. None of these words alone guarantees whether a product is whole grain or reﬁned grain, so look for the word “whole” and follow the other advice here.
Check the list of ingredients
If the ﬁrst ingredient listed contains the word “whole” (such as “whole wheat ﬂour” or “whole oats”), it is likely – but not guaranteed – that the product is predominantly whole grain. If there are two grain ingredients and only the second ingredient listed is a whole grain, the product may contain as little as 1% or as much as 49% whole grain (in other words, it could contain a little bit of whole grain, or nearly half).
Multiple grains get even trickier
If there are several grain ingredients, the situation gets more complex. For instance, let’s say a “multi-grain bread” is 30% reﬁned ﬂour and 70% whole grain. But the whole grains are split between several diﬀerent grains, and each whole grain comprises less than 30% of the total.
The ingredients might read “Enriched white ﬂour, whole wheat, whole oat ﬂour, whole cornmeal and whole millet” and you would NOT be able to tell from the label whether the whole grains make up 70% of the product or 7% of the product. That’s why we created the Whole Grain Stamp program.
Fiber is not reliable
Fiber varies from grain to grain, ranging from 3.5% in rice to over 15% in barley and bulgur. What’s more, high-ﬁber products sometimes contain bran or other added ﬁber without actually having much if any whole grain.
Both ﬁber and whole grains have been shown to have health beneﬁts. But they’re not interchangeable. So checking the ﬁber on a label is not a very reliable way to guess whether a product is truly whole grain.