Cutting out grains cuts out important nutrient sources

New research highlights enriched grain and whole grain foods as important nutrient contributors to Canadians’ diets

New findings presented at the Canadian Nutrition Society annual conference this past weekend in Halifax, Nova Scotia, show that many foods made from enriched (refined) grains or whole grains are important nutrient contributors to the Canadian diet.

The University of Saskatchewan (U of S) research project examined grain consumption patterns identified in the recently released 2015 Canadian Community Health Survey (CCHS) by Statistics Canada.

The early findings reveal that current consumption patterns of grain foods made from enriched non-whole grains or whole grains such as breads, cereals, pastas and tortillas deliver a high amount of key nutrients to the diet (43 per cent of folate, 39 per cent of iron and 31 per cent of dietary fibre) while only contributing 25 per cent of the daily calories.

Adults and young Canadians who consume grain foods in general have a higher intake of dietary fibre and nutrients such as folate, iron and B vitamins, compared to those who do not eat grain foods.

“When we examined the CCHS data, we discovered that nearly 80 per cent of Canadian adults are not eating the current Canada’s Food Guide (2007) recommended servings of grains,” said lead researcher Hassan Vatanparast.

“But the grain foods they do consume are contributing important sources of some key nutrients and those individuals who do not consume grains may be at risk for these important nutrients, such as folic acid, some B vitamins and iron,” said Vatanparast, associate professor in the U of S Colleges of Pharmacy and Nutrition and School of Public Health.

While benefits of whole grain foods such as oats, quinoa, and whole wheat bread are well documented, there’s less research supporting the benefits of enriched grain foods (sometimes referred to as refined grains) such as white bread, pasta and cereals. 

“In fact, our research showed that most of the grain foods that Canadians consume are actually made from enriched grains,” said Vatanparast.

“So, considering that refined grains are currently contributing 23 per cent of Canadian’s daily fibre, 40 per cent of folate and 31 per cent of the iron, it becomes clear that they are important food sources for delivering key nutrients in the Canadian diet.”

Nutrition researcher Yanni Papanikolaou, vice-president at Nutritional Strategies Inc. who also contributed to the study, adds, “The U of S researchers also found that the body mass index (BMI) of people who eat grains is not different from the BMI of people who do not eat grains, suggesting that eliminating grain foods from diets is not associated with the BMI.”

The findings presented are from early results of the project which will continue at the U of S into 2020.


For more information, contact:

Jennifer Thoma
Media Relations Specialist
University of Saskatchewan

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