Australian grains have long been recognized as one of the best both domestically and internationally due to their high and consistent quality. The reason behind that is Australia’s high standards in terms of strict production laws, farming practices, quality of grains and the unique climatic and soil conditions. Year by year, the Australian grain production sees more and more land dedicated to commercial grain crops, which is vastly influenced by the huge interest from the overseas markets. And yet, its crop variety is still limited to the unique regions and their climatic conditions.
Over the last decade of constant droughts, the industry has been focusing its efforts on developing drought tolerant technologies in order to improve food production as well as support food security in developing countries.
Due to the exponential growth in human population, food security is a huge challenge. In order to feed the world, food production has to be multiplied twofold in a way that would not affect ecology and biodiversity.
In that regards, the Australian grain industry has adopted a “market choice” approach, which allows the big range of players in the industry to have their own choice of crop, be that organic or genetically modified. Co-existence of the organic, conventional and GM crops in the supply chain is the main drive towards a more secure future.
What are the health benefits of grains?
Before analysing their health benefits, it’s important to understand the difference between whole grains and refined grains. Both are widely used in food production, but only one of them has a “complete package” of health benefits. So, when you’re eating that soft and crunchy pretzel in the morning, ask yourself whether you’re actually getting all health benefits from that morning food choice of yours.
Whole grain seeds are composed of 3 almost equally important sections – the bran, the endosperm and the germ. All 3 sections are packed with healthy nutrients.
The bran is the fibre powerhouse which houses such nutrients as B vitamins, zinc, magnesium, iron, copper, phytochemicals and antioxidants.
The germ is where the growth happens and it stores some important vitamins – E, B, fats, antioxidants and phytochemicals.
The endosperm houses the least of nutrients – carbs, proteins, some B vitamins and minerals.
Refined grains only contain the endosperm which drastically affects the healthy intake of nutrients.
Unfortunately, refined grains are now used in a bigger proportion in global food production. The majority of snacks are made of refined grains by default, and only the “whole grains” inscription on the label will actually tell the type of grain used. So, watch out for the label!
To break down the different categories of nutrients that grains contain into specific health benefits for the human body –
The bran and its high fibre content are extremely helpful in blood pressure management
Fibre has a very important share in the healthy functioning of the digestive system
Fibre lowers cholesterol levels and reduces the possibility of heart attacks and strokes
The different phytochemicals and essential minerals like magnesium, copper, selenium have cancer fighting properties.
Needless to say, whole grains should always be a part of a healthy eating regime. At least half of the daily grain intake should consist of whole grains.
Wheat is an annual grass (species of Triticum) cultivated for its edible seeds that grow encased in a “head of wheat”. The seeds can be of light tan to brown colour. One head of wheat makes 50 kernels. One pound of wheat makes 17,000 kernels. The kernels have 3 constituents – the bran, the endoperm and the germ. For increased health benefits look for whole wheat foods because they contain all 3 elements that were mentioned above.
Wheat is a great source of vitamins, antioxidants and minerals. However, it is highly controversial as of last few years due to one protein it contains named gluten which is known to cause harmful immune responses in people who are gluten intolerant.
The nutritional value per 100 grams (3.5 ounces) of whole-grain wheat flour –
- Calories: 340
- Water: 11%
- Protein: 13.2 grams
- Carbs: 72 grams
- Sugar: 0.4 grams
- Fibre: 10.7 grams
- Fat: 2.5 grams
Oats are an annual grass (species of Avena Sativa) harvested for its edible, starchy seeds. The whole-grain oats are long and elliptical, and they need to be processed before consumption. They are milled, steamed, heated and cooled in a kiln. Once cooked, they bring out a unique flavour. Widely used in cooking, oats are a popular healthy breakfast food in many countries.
Oats are rich in beta-glucan, a type of fibre that naturally occurs in the cell walls of this cereal grain. It is also the only cereal grain to contain avenanthramides, a unique type of antioxidants.
The nutritional value per 100 grams (3.5 ounces) of raw oats –
- Calories: 389
- Water: 8%
- Protein: 16.9 grams
- Carbs: 66.3 grams
- Sugar: 0 grams
- Fibre: 10.6 grams
- Fat: 6.9 grams
One of the oldest cereal grains in the world, rice is the grain that grows on the semi-aquatic grass called Oryza sativa. Unlike other plants, the grass is very unique in that it can grow in very wet environments. Rice can be of two types – white (most common) and brown (whole grain and a healthier option).
Rice is a grain packed with B vitamins including thiamine, riboflavin and niacin. It also contains such minerals like manganese and magnesium. Brown rice is healthier because it is a whole grain, less processed, with the germ and bran intact.
The nutritional value per 100 grams (3.5 ounces) of white rice –
- Calories: 130
- Water: 68.44 g
- Protein: 2.36 grams
- Carbs: 28.7 grams
- Sugar: 2.4 grams to 0 grams
- Fibre: 2.5 grams
- Fat: 0.19 grams
Corn, also known as maize, is a tall, annual cereal grass of the grass family Poaceae which is cultivated for its edible seeds derived from the ovary of the corn plant. The whole corn is a vegetable, and the corn kernel is a grain.
Whole grain corn is the richest source of vitamin A than any other grain. Low in sugar, sodium and fat, corn is also high in protein, fibre, copper zinc, potassium, niacin and vitamin B6. Corn has a high content of lutein and zeaxanthin which are both good for eye health. Its high fibre content is beneficial in digestion as well as in the prevention of the diverticular disease and LDL management.
The nutritional value in 100 grams (3.5 ounces) of boiled corn –
- Calories: 96
- Water: 73%
- Protein: 3.4 grams
- Carbs: 21 grams
- Sugar: 21.32 grams to4.5 grams
- Fibre: 2.4 grams
- Fat: 1.5 grams
Barley is a cereal grass of the Poaceae family that grows and looks much like wheat. The grains are of an elliptical form and have a chewy and nutty flavour. It comes in a range of forms. Barley has an important role in beer brewing and whiskey production.
Barley is very rich in fibre and calcium. It contains niacin and Vitamin B6 which is an essential vitamin for brain health and management of a proper immune system. The grain is rich in manganese (a healthy mineral for a proper functioning of the human body), selenium (for a healthy functioning of the thyroid gland), phosphorous (for healthy teeth and bones), and iron.
The nutritional value in 100 grams (3.5 ounces) of whole grain barley –
- Calories: 354
- Fat: 2.3 grams
- Thiamine: 43% of the Reference Daily Intake (RDI)
- Riboflavin: 17% of the RDI
- Niacin: 23% of the RDI
- Vitamin B6: 16% of the RDI
- Folate: 5% of the RDI
- Iron: 20% of the RDI
- Magnesium: 33% of the RDI
- Phosphorus: 26% of the RDI
- Zinc: 18% of the RDI
- Copper: 25% of the RDI
- Manganese: 97% of the RDI
- Selenium: 54% of the RDI
Sorghum is a tall, annual grass member of the Poaceae family. The grains of the plant are small with colours ranging from white, yellow to red, purple or even black. There are around 25 different species of this cereal grain.
Sorghum is a nutrient-rich cereal grain. It contains lots of fibre, protein, vitamin B6, and minerals like iron, phosphorous, niacin and magnesium. The grain is an effective immunity booster, improves blood circulation, healthy teeth and bones, and a proper functioning of the brain.
The nutritional value in 100 grams (3.5 ounces) of sorghum grain –
- Calories: 316
- Protein: 10 grams
- Fat: 3 grams
- Carbohydrates: 69 grams
- Fibre: 6 grams
- Vitamin B1 (thiamine): 26% of the Daily Value (DV)
- Vitamin B2 (riboflavin): 7% of the DV
- Vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid): 7% of the DV
- Vitamin B6: 25% of the DV
- Copper: 30%of the DV
- Iron: 18% of the DV
- Magnesium: 37% of the DV
- Phosphorus: 22% of the DV
- Potassium: 7% of the DV
- Zinc: 14% of the DV
Rye is an annual grass from the Poaceae family related to barley and wheat. Its edible seeds are of a long and elliptical form (longer than wheat grains). The colour of the grains can range from yellowish brown to grayish green.
Rye contains a big amount of nutrients, phytochemicals, minerals and antioxidants. Being rich in vitamin C, it is known to regulate the metabolism, improve the immune system and regulate the nervous system. Thanks to its high content of soluble fibre, it aids in digestion and prevents the development of gallstones in women. Rye grain is also a great source of copper, magnesium and phosphorous. In menopausal women, rye is known to alleviate hot flushes due to its phytoestrogenic activity stimulated by lignan.
The nutritional value in 32 grams (1 slice) of rye bread is –
- Calories: 83
- Protein: 2.7 grams
- Carbs: 15.5 grams
- Fat: 1.1 grams
- Fibre: 1.9 grams
- Selenium: 18% of the Daily Value (DV)
- Thiamine: 11.6% of the DV
- Manganese: 11.5% of the DV
- Riboflavin: 8.2% of the DV
- Niacin: 7.6% of the DV
- Vitamin B6: 7.5% of the DV
- Copper: 6.6% of the DV
- Iron: 5% of the DV
- Folate: 8.8% of the DV
Millet is a cereal grain part of the Poaceae family with small, round grains. They vary in species, colour (white to red), and appearance.
Millet is the only cereal grain that stores an immense amount of essential amino acids which act as the building blocks of protein. It is very rich in calcium, plenty of phosphorous and magnesium. Millet grains are high in phenolic compound, ferulic acid and catechins, important antioxidants used to prevent from oxidative stress. With a low GI, millet is recommended for type 2 diabetes patients. The rich content of soluble fibre improves digestion and helps reduce cholesterol levels.
The nutritional value in 174 grams (one cup of millet packs) is –
- Calories: 207
- Carbs: 41 grams
- Fibre: 2.2 grams
- Protein: 6 grams
- Fat: 1.7 grams
- Phosphorus: 25% of the Daily Value (DV)
- Magnesium: 19% of the DV
- Folate: 8% of the DV
- Iron: 6% of the DV