“Multigrain” – more marketing than health

mostly wheat, and refined at that. Less than 2% "multi"

“Multigrain” on food packages sure sounds good – it hints of fiber, whole grains and nutrients.  Are “multigrain” products really healthier than the regular versions.  Short answer: probably not.

IMPORTANT FACT: there is no official definition for “multigrain”.  The FDA doesn’t regulate use of that term, so it can mean whatever the food manufacturer wants.  Technically, multi refers to more than one of something, so you’d expect anything labeled “multigrain” to have at least 2 different type of grain ingredients.  Another problem: “multi” grain has nothing to do with “whole” grain.  Plain old white flour is strictly speaking a grain product.  The label at right is from Keebler Multigrain Club crackers.  The first ingredient is plain old white flour.  Not much whole grain nutrition there.   In fact, there’s more sugar than actual whole wheat, and the other grain ingredients account for less than two percent of the total ingredients:  a tidbit of oats and corn.  Whoo hoo.  2% multigrain.

Many consumers look for whole grains, knowing that whole grains have more fiber and are generally more nutritious than refined products like white flour.  There’s good reason to include whole grains, and a new study confirmed previous findings about the benefits of eating more high fiber foods.  In this study, intake of fruits, legumes, vegetables and brown rice were compared to risk for colon polyps, which are precursors to colon cancer.  The results: higher intake of these fiber-rich foods lowered risk for polyps.

Buying a product labeled multigrain might not be giving you the health benefits you imagined.  Since the FDA doesn’t regulate this claim, you have to do your own checking.  Look for whole grains in the ingredients list.  Whole grain ingredients should be listed first, not far down the list, and definitely not limited to 2% of the total product.  I’d expect a worthwhile multigrain product I buy to have 3 or 4 whole grain ingredients listed first, before any sugar or oils.

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