Making the Most of the Whole Grain Opportunity

By Rebecca Williams

New research examining global whole grain intakes suggests that Australia is doing better than some countries for whole grain consumption(1). However we still have a long way to go to meet the amount of whole grain recommended for good health and chronic disease risk reduction.

According to the most recent National Nutrition Survey only 34% of grain food consumed came from whole grain or high fibre grain foods(2). This aligns with GLNC’s own research, which shows that more than 40% of Australians eat less than one serve of whole grain food per day(3). An intake of three serves of whole grain a day is recommended to promote health and reduce chronic disease risk(4, 5), however in Australia only one in three people meets this target(3).

Whilst Australia is doing much better than the UK – where just 17% of people meet this target and the US where only 8% eat enough whole grain – we’re not doing nearly as well as countries like Denmark, Sweden and Norway(1). Residents in these countries typically consume twice as much whole grain as the average Australian and may experience fewer instances of chronic disease as a result.

One of the reasons Australians are not meeting whole grain recommendations may be because they are confused about which foods are whole grain foods. The 2014 GLNC Consumption Study found that less than half of survey respondents were able to identify that oats and wholemeal pasta were a source of whole grain(3). One of the contributing factors to consumer confusion may be that unlike other nutrients, the Food Standards Code does not regulate whole grain content claims, and consequently foods making whole grain claims may vary in the amount of whole grain they contain. Data from the 2016 GLNC product audit showed that the whole grain content of packaged breads with whole grain content claims on pack varied from around 8g to 60g of whole grain per serve(6).

To ensure consumers are getting consistent information on whole grain content, the Grains & Legumes Nutrition Council launched the Code of Practice for Whole Grain Ingredient Content Claims in 2013. The Code helps to regulate whole grain content claims through the establishment of a benchmark for the minimum amount of whole grain a product must contain to make a whole grain ingredient content claim.

A recent impact assessment revealed significant uptake of, and a high level of compliance with, the Code by food industry. This should instil confidence in the Australian public’s ability to identify foods which contain a significant amount of whole grain.

Since the Code was launched Registered Users of the Code have added over 100,000 tonnes or more than 400 Olympic swimming pools of whole grain to the Australian food supply through new and renovated products. This is great news as it means that with increasing innovation in the whole grain category, it’s easier than ever for Australians to choose foods that are high in whole grain.

While food industry is doing its part to support consumer choice, quantified public health recommendations would encourage consumers to choose whole grain more often. Based on the evidence for better health outcomes, this recommendation should be to choose whole grain for at least three of your six serves of grain foods a day.

The average Australian would need an increase of just 1.5 serves of whole grain a day to meet the recommended three serves and reap the significant health benefits of higher whole grain intake. This could be as simple as swapping the white bread in your sandwich for a wholemeal variety, or opting for a whole grain breakfast cereal in the morning. If you’re in need of some inspiration, why not check out some of the delicious whole grain recipes available on the GLNC website.

Registered Users of the GLNC Code of Practice in Australia and New Zealand include:

If you’re interested in registering with the Whole Grain Code of Practice or simply want to find out more click here.


  1. Mann KD, Pearce MS, Seal CJ. Providing evidence to support the development of whole grain dietary recommendations in the United Kingdom. The Proceedings of the Nutrition Society. 2016:1-9.
  2. ABS. 2011-2012 Australian Health Survey: Consumption of food groups from the Australian Dietary Guidelines, 2011–12 — Australia. Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2016.
  3. GLNC. 2014 Australian Grains and Legumes Consumption and Attitudinal Report. Unpublished: 2014.
  4. NHMRC. Australian Dietary Guidelines Providing the scientific evidence for healthier Australian diets. 2013 Accessed online January 2014.
  5. Aune D, Keum N, Giovannucci E, Fadnes LT, Boffetta P, Greenwood DC, et al. Whole grain consumption and risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer, and all cause and cause specific mortality: systematic review and dose-response meta-analysis of prospective studies. Bmj. 2016;353.
  6. GLNC. GLNC 2015-2016 Grains and Legumes Product Audit. Unpublished: Grains & Legumes Nutrition Council 2016.

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