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The decades of nutrition advice encouraging Americans to eat more whole grains takes one small assumption for granted: that Americans will actually know which grains are which.
Recognizing the importance of this task, Oldways founded the Oldways Whole Grains Council in 2003, and in 2005, introduced the Whole Grain Stamp packaging symbol, which now appears on more than 12,000 products worldwide. Throughout our 15+ year journey, we’ve seen encouraging progress regarding the availability of (and interest in) whole grain foods.
To better assess the whole grain savvy of American shoppers, researchers in a recent study asked 169 low-income adults in Connecticut to look at 11 foods in their original packaging and determine if each was a whole grain or a reﬁned grain. (No mixed foods were used – all of the whole grain products were 100% whole grain.) The majority of participants (7 out of 10) correctly identiﬁed 4 out of 5 of the whole grain products as whole grain, and nearly as many (6 out of 10) participants correctly identiﬁed 5 out of the 6 reﬁned grain products.
Speciﬁcally, 9/10 people correctly identiﬁed whole grain bread, 8/10 correctly identiﬁed whole grain crackers & whole grain cereal, and 7/10 correctly identiﬁed oatmeal as a whole grain, while popcorn tripped most people up (with only 3/10 people correctly identifying it as a whole grain food). Similarly, 8/10 correctly identiﬁed reﬁned crackers, 7/10 correctly identiﬁed reﬁned macaroni and tortillas, and 6/10 correctly identiﬁed reﬁned bread and cereal, while white rice was tricky for people (with only 4/10 correctly identifying it as a reﬁned grain).
The study made no mention of using products bearing the Whole Grain Stamp in their methods, but that would have certainly made it even easier for participants to identify whole grain foods. Furthermore, our 2018 Whole Grains Consumer Insights Survey found that 78% of adults would use the Stamp when deciding whether or not to buy a product, and that 51% of adults are less likely to trust a product’s claims about whole grains without the Whole Grain Stamp.
The authors of the Connecticut study mentioned above also suggested that reducing the cost (or perceived cost) of whole grain foods might encourage people to buy and eat more of them, as some of the low-income participants perceived whole grains as more expensive. In our own investigations in Boston-area supermarkets, we found that while whole grain sandwich breads tend to cost more than their reﬁned counterparts, for many other grain foods (such as pasta, rice, crackers, and ﬂatbreads), the prices are actually quite comparable. (We later expanded these ﬁndings into an infographic.)
If you’re looking for a refresher on how to spot a whole grain, our new Whole Grains 101 Poster is a great resource. You can also check out some of our free downloadable handouts, such as:
- Understanding the Whole Grain Stamp
- Whole Grains A to Z
- Whole Grains Made Easy
- ¿QUÉ ES UN GRANO ENTERO?
For the rest of you grain gurus out there, we challenge you to complete our 10-question “Guess the Grains” online quiz! (Kelly)