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Children laying down laughing in a wheatfield

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A whole lot of fun whole grain facts

You might already know a lot about whole grain – like how important it is in a balanced diet, and how tasty it can be. But do you really know everything about it? No? Great! You’ve come to the right place.

Chewing it over

People have been eating whole grains for more than 17,000 years – they picked seeds, rubbed off the husks and chewed the kernels raw or boiled them in water.

Illustration of boiling water over a fire

Oh mummy!

Egyptians used to bury mummies with necklaces made from barley, and in 1324 King Edward II of England set the standard for the measurement - making the ‘inch’ equal to ‘three grains of barley, dry and round, placed end-to-end lengthwise’.

Illustration of a necklace made from barley

A whole lot of grains

One bushel of wheat contains around a million individual whole grain kernels.

Illustration ofa bucket of grains

War on whole grain

Amaranth is a whole grain that was incredibly important to the Aztecs. So when the Spanish invaded, their leader, Cortez, tried to destroy the Aztecs by not allowing them to grow it – anyone caught was put to death!

Illustration of a skull made of wheat

Tut, tut ...

Khorasan grain is a wheat variety that was brought to the US as a souvenir from an Egyptian tomb - it was sold as ‘King Tut’s Wheat’. Now known as kamut, an ancient Egyptian word for wheat, this rich, buttery-tasting wheat is certified organic.

Illustration a pharao with a kamut

Rice in disguise

Wild rice isn’t really rice at all – it’s the seed of an aquatic grass originally grown by Native American tribes. It has a strong flavour and is quite expensive so it’s usually mixed with other types of rice.

Illustration of a grain of white and brown rice

Mighty wheat!

Wheat is the most widely grown cereal grain. It’s grown on over 17% of the total cultivated land in the world, and is the staple food for 35% of the world’s population. It provides more calories and protein in the world’s diet than any other crop.

Illustration of a globe

Pop goes the kernel!

Popcorn is simply a puffed-up whole grain. It’s made from a special type of corn called ‘zea mays everta’ – the only type of corn that can ‘pop’. Try popping your own corn at home with the kids – great fun!

Illustration of puffing grains

Food of goods and kings

In Asia, the Amaranth grain is known as ‘king seed’ and ‘seed sent by God’.

Illustration of an indian god

Pure gold

Quinoa, pronounced ‘keen-wa’, is a whole grain that was highly prized by the ancient Incas – they called it ‘gold of the Incas’.

Illustration of gold and wheat

Footnotes

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    We've tried to answer as many of your questions as possible. You can search them all here:

    How can I find foods made with whole grain?

    Two things to remember: • Look for food labels where the word 'whole' appears in front of the name of the grain, like “whole wheat” or “wholemeal bread”. • For foods with more than one ingredient, make sure whole grain is listed towards the top of the ingredients list. The further up the list it is, the more whole grain has been used in the recipe. And look out for the percentage of whole grain. You should find this in the ingredients list too. It’s easy to know if a Nestlé breakfast cereal is made with whole grain: just look out for the Green Banner and whole grain tick on top of the box.

    What should be in a complete breakfast?

    A complete breakfast should include a balance of nutrients from each of the major food groups. As a guide, it might look like this: • 1 grain-based starchy food • 1 dairy food • 1 portion of fresh fruit • 1 glass of water • Optionally, an additional source of protein Nestlé breakfast cereals are a nutritious breakfast choice as they are: • A source of fiber and whole grain • Low in fat (most have low levels of all types of fat, including saturates) • Fortified with vitamins and minerals such as B vitamins, calcium and iron • A lower calorie per kilojoule, fat and sugar choice than many other breakfast food options

    Do breakfast cereals contain too much saturated fat?

    No. Breakfast cereals aren’t a major source of saturated fats, and contain no added trans fats. Some grains, such as oats, can be higher in fats – but these are naturally present in the grain, and tend to be ‘good’ fats, not saturated fats.

    Can processed foods be made with whole grain?

    Yes. If a food product has the word “whole” listed on its ingredient label – wholewheat pasta or wholemeal bread, for example, then you know it’s been made with whole grain flour, even if the other ingredients are processed. By the way, even whole grains need to be processed: removing the inedible outer husk makes them safe to eat. But they’re less processed than refined grains, which require additional steps to remove the bran and germ.

    Do breakfast cereals really make a significant contribution to vitamin and mineral intakes?

    Research shows that adults and children who regularly eat fortified breakfast cereals are more likely to reach their daily requirements of vitamins and minerals, including the B Vitamins and Iron. Eating whole grain breakfast cereal with milk is a nutritious way to start the day and can be part of a healthy, balanced diet.

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