Bread, pasta, and other foods made from whole grains — known to help protect against heart disease, cancer and diabetes — may get even healthier in the future.
Scientists in Europe collaborating in the European Union HEALTHGRAIN project are reporting the largest study to date comparing nutrient levels in the world's different grain varieties, which could lead to the development of healthier varieties of grain and grain-based foods, they say.
Their findings will be described in a group of papers scheduled for the November 26 issue of the ACS' Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, a bi-weekly publication.
In the new study, Peter R. Shewry and colleagues point out that whole grain foods, including wheat, rye and oats, have been widely touted in recent years for having greater health benefits than refined grains. Health-promoting ingredients in whole grains include fiber, antioxidants, folate, and other plant chemicals.
As nutrient levels can vary from grain to grain, however, it is unclear which grain varieties pack the most nutritional punch, the researchers note.
To find out, the scientists grew 150 wheat varieties used for bread-making and 50 other small-grain varieties (including oats, rye, and barley) on a single farm in Hungary over a one year period. The grains, grown from lines originating worldwide, were then harvested, milled, and analyzed for a range of plant chemicals and fiber components considered to have health benefits.
The researchers identified grain varieties with high levels of healthy components that could be used to breed new, nutrient-rich varieties of grain for healthier whole grain foods.
- Ward et al. The HEALTHGRAIN Cereal Diversity Screen: Concept, Results, and Prospects. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, 2008; 56 (21): 9699 DOI: 10.1021/jf8009574
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