bowl of granola
Photo by ABHISHEK HAJARE on Unsplash

 

If you’ve ever wondered about the difference between grams of fiber and grams of whole grain in a product, you’re certainly not alone – this is a very common source of confusion, even among health and medical professionals. We frequently hear from people who want to know why the whole grain grams listed on the Whole Grain Stamp (or elsewhere on a product’s packaging) don’t match up with the grams of fiber listed on the Nutrition Facts Panel. Have no fear! We’re here to explain this difference, to help dispel the uncertainty you might feel, and to give you more confidence in your understanding of whole grain labeling! 

Let’s address the confusion. Whole grains are a food group (just like fruits, or vegetables), and fiber is a nutrient (like protein, or vitamins). Just as individual fruits and vegetables contain their own unique mix of vitamins and minerals, different whole grain ingredients contain their own combination of nutrients. Fiber is a nutrient found in significant quantities in many whole grains. In fact, whole grains are a bit famous for their fiber content – it’s one of the components people talk most. But the reality is that whole grains are made up of a LOT more than fiber alone. Whole grains contain antioxidants, lignans, phytoestrogens, B vitamins, vitamin E, copper, magnesium, zinc, and much, much more. Fiber is just one component among these many parts that make up a whole grain. 

Looking back at our initial question, the reason you’ll often see products with more grams of whole grain than fiber is that fiber is only one small (but significant) part of that whole grain ingredient. Rather than duplicating readily available information about a product’s fiber content, the Whole Grain Stamp offers information about the product’s whole grain content, which is usually otherwise unavailable to the consumer and is not included on the Nutrition Facts Panel. 

stack of granola bars
Photo by Louis Hansel on Unsplash

 

Let’s look at a few examples. A product with 18g of whole wheat flour is only expected to contain about 2g of fiber. And it’s important to keep in mind that the amount of fiber in different whole grain ingredients varies a lot too! Brown rice (at about 3.5% fiber) is naturally much lower in fiber than whole grain wheat (at about 10.7% fiber), which means that a product with 18g of brown rice may only contain about 0.5g fiber. Of course, we’re just talking about the fiber found in the whole grain ingredients within a product. Your favorite products may have additional fiber from extra bran, resistant starch, or other high-fiber ingredients (like nuts, seeds, fruit, etc.). 

We like to remind people that not all fiber is created equal. Research has shown that the fiber from whole grains may offer specific health benefits that can’t be replicated by the fiber found in other foods, like fruits or vegetables. Eating a wide variety of healthy foods – including whole grains, nuts and seeds, legumes, fruits, and vegetables – is the best way to make sure you’re getting all the nutrients and various types of fiber your body needs to take care of itself well. 

Curious about how your favorite whole grain stacks up? You can learn more about the fiber content of various whole grains on our website. (Caroline)

Comments

Anonymous
I feel confused with this whole grain stamp idea versus just checking the nutrition label for the amount of fiber that the food may contain. Why do I care where my fiber comes from as long as I meet my daily goals?
Cynthia
Where your fiber comes from DOES matter. Research shows that cereal fiber, from whole grains, may have health benefits not found in other kinds of fiber. Plus, there's more to whole grain than just fiber. The two are NOT interchangeable. When you get the whole grain, you get extra vitamins and minerals, antioxidants, heart-healthy fats, and other important nutrients you don't necessarily get if you eat refined grains with added fiber. That's why the Whole Grain Stamp provides important information not found anywhere else on the nutrition label. (Cindy)
Joan Kanapsky
I can’t eat fiber so will this have the same effect on me? I love Cinnamon Toast Crunch cereal.
Caroline-WGC
Hi Joan – There are some medical conditions which require a low-fiber diet and if this is the case for you, you should consult with your doctor or dietitian about which foods you should eat and which you should avoid. They will be able to give you advice about how to make sure you're still meeting your nutritional needs on such a restrictive diet. In case you're curious, Cinnamon Toast Crunch cereal contains 2g of fiber per serving, and lists whole grain wheat as its first ingredient, so this may not be a good option if you've been told by a health professional that you should be avoiding fiber.
Anthony
I'm so glad I found this article. It really is confusing figuring out which is which and how to ensure you get the daily recommend amount of both whole grains and dietary fiber. A couple of pointers I've picked up along the way that might be useful when running into this confusion: 1. Like this article says, whole grains have fiber but they aren't interchangable ideas. To emphasize this, consider the fact that other great sources of fiber include broccoli, beans, and raspberries. Notice that none of those are whole grains! If you're trying to figure out a way to eat only whole grains to meet both your whole grain and fiber quota, you're probably going to be eating 2–5 times more whole grains to hit your fiber amount. Eat some beans along with that whole wheat toast! You'll get there faster and healthier! 2. The whole grains council recommends three *servings* of whole grains a day, with a serving having a *minimum* of 16 grams. Notice that on your oatmeal where it says "100% whole grains, 38 grams" that it also says "eat three servings a day to get recommended daily whole grains". Even though that oatmeal has over twice as many whole grains as needed in one serving, it doesn't count as two servings. Weird, right?! So look for a variety of foods that have the 100% stamp since you probably don't want to eat oatmeal 3 times a day everyday. And throw in some broccoli or blueberries to help reach your daily recommended fiber.
Caroline-WGC
Hi Anthony – Thanks for jumping in and contributing to our discussion! I want to clarify one point of confusion for you about “servings of whole grain” versus the “labeled serving size” you see on a package. These are actually two distinct concepts. The US Dietary Guidelines recommends that adults eat 3 servings of whole grain per day and they have determined that one serving of whole grain equals 16g. This recommendation is not the same as the serving size on the Nutrition Facts Panel – it’s just a reference to the amount they recommend people consume over the course of a day. The serving size on the Nutrition Facts Panel, on the other hand, is based on the FDA’s Reference Amount Customarily Consumed and varies depending on the type of packaged food being labeled (ex. ready-to-eat cereals, pasta, bread, etc.). Products very often include many different ingredients and the serving size is based on the product overall, rather than referring to the size of a recommend serving for a particular food group (like whole grains) that is represented in that product. Because "servings of whole grain" and "serving size of product" are two different things, it’s possible for one labeled serving (the serving size) of a product to contain more than one 16g-serving of whole grain (as in your oatmeal example).
Mapaseka
Can I eat fiber or grains for waight loss?
kelly-oldways
Many people who transition to a healthier diet that includes whole grains and other high fiber foods can certainly lose weight. However, the amount of food required for weight loss will vary greatly depending on your age, size, and activity level. We recommend asking your doctor for a referral to a registered dietitian, so that they can find an eating plan that works for your specific needs.
Louise Hernan
I'm still confused - my package of Quaker Carmel Rice Cakes has 5g of whole grain per serving (1 rice cake) but no fiber. I read here that whole grains do have fiber.
Caroline-WGC
Hi Louise -- Great question. Rice has the lowest fiber level of any whole grain, at about 3.6%. Rice cakes with 5g of rice contain about 0.18g fiber (5g x 3.6%) which rounds down to 0g on the Nutrition Facts Panel. Whole grain rice cakes are one of the few products where we expect to see 0g fiber, despite the product containing whole grains.
Pamela Anderson
Still confused, as I want to know what percent of my carb intake should be from grains and what percent from fiber??
Caroline-WGC
Hi Pamela -- The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends that adults make at least half their grains whole, which ends up being about 48g of whole grain per day. The Dietary Guidelines recommend at total of about 96g of grains per day (combining both whole grains and refined grains). The Daily Value (DV) set for fiber is 28g per day. Remember that whole grains are a great source of fiber, but you also get fiber from fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes, etc.

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