Over the past decade, dietitians around the world have argued that whole grain foods are healthier to eat. They have cited research that indicates that eating whole grains improves cardiovascular health and reduces the risk of developing diabetes. Although some of those claims have been questioned in recent years, whole grain products have become increasingly popular in Canada and the rest of the world.
However, many people may have been deceived by firms that claim to sell whole grain products. A new study in Canada has found that many of the whole grain products on supermarket shelves contain a significant amount of refined flour. Consumers typically assume that any product that is labelled as “whole grain” is automatically a healthier product.
Snack companies have also tried to exploit many of their customers. Chips and many other products that are known to be unhealthy have been labeled as whole grain. Marketing companies realize that they can take advantage of customers interested in whole grain products that they perceive to be more nutritious. Sales for many unhealthy snack products have increased considerably since these labels have been added.
Most consumers are not familiar with the regulations that define whether or not a food can be labeled as “whole grain” or “whole wheat.” In Canada, wheat can be classified as whole wheat as long as the harvesters haven’t removed more than 5% of the wheat kernel. This reduces the level of nutrition considerably, but companies are still allowed to market their product to suggest it is healthier than white flour substitutes.
Many customers don’t realize that the company may have removed most of the nutrients from the 100% whole wheat product they are purchasing. Health experts are warning customers that they shouldn’t depend solely on the label at the supermarket. Additionally, they need to be aware of the various strategies the wheat companies use to confuse misinformed customers. Customers generally expect whole grain products to be darker. Manufacturers have taken advantage of them by adding molasses to the food to make customers think it has a richer concentration of nutrients.
Health experts have been asking health regulators to create stricter guidelines for customers to follow. Health Canada has said that changing regulations constituting what can be labeled as a whole grain product is not a major priority. However, health care experts said that Canada is the only country in the world that allows manufacturers to make such misleading claims. The United States requires a product to be made entirely from whole grains before it can be labeled as such.
Health experts who believe that whole grains are healthier said that customers need to be aware of the serving size they are eating. Although studies suggest that whole grains are going to be healthier, people may need to eat large amounts of them in order to realize the benefits.
Customers are encouraged to read nutritional labels and better understand regulations before they purchase foods that may be falsely labeled as whole grain products.