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Australians eating fewer grains

breadAustralians are eating 29 per cent fewer core grain foods than in 2011, which puts them at increased risk of excess weight gain and chronic disease, a national 2014 study 1 released last week has shown.

The 2014 Australian Grains & Legumes Consumption & Attitudinal Study presented at a Consumption Symposium last week, canvassed the habits of more than 3000 Australians aged two to 70 years.

The Grains & Legumes Nutrition Council (GLNC) says that new dieting fads – such as the low carb high fat diet, Paleo diet and mainstream shift to gluten-free diets – have resulted in a significant decline in the consumption of core grain foods.

The fall in grain food consumption is driven by people eating fewer breads and rolls – the largest category of core grain foods – as well as white pasta and noodles; while there has been a rise in the consumption of flatbreads and tortillas since 2011.

According to Michelle Broom, GLNC GM and an accredited practising dietitian, the Consumption Study presents evidence-based information on the health and nutritional benefits of grains and legumes to balance the hype of new dieting trends.

“The 2014 Consumption Study has exposed a rapid decline in the amount of core grain foods Australians are eating – falling a massive 29 per cent in just three years,” Broom said.

“Fad diet trends have resulted in widespread confusion about the benefits of eating core grain foods and legumes. We need to educate people about the health consequences of cutting these nutritious foods out of their diets.”

The study found that six per cent of all Australians are not consuming any grain foods at all and many are possibly making this decision without medical advice.

“The study found that women, in particular, are at risk of missing out on the benefits of core grain foods. In fact, Aussie women aged under 50 need to increase core grain consumption by 50 per cent to reach recommended levels,” said Broom.

One in 10 respondents (11 per cent) aged 15 years and above avoided wheat in their diet in 2014, although this was down from 16 per cent in 2011.

“Many diets that exclude whole food groups are hailed as the secret to weight loss and good health, but consumers should be warned these claims are not usually backed by the whole picture of the science,” Broom said.

The Consumption Study further reveals Australians’ high consumption of discretionary grains such as biscuits, cakes, muesli bars, and pizza account for 32 per cent of our total grain food choices. The study said most people would benefit from swapping these for core grain foods.

“Australians are buying into the idea of a quick fix to lose weight by radically changing their diet. While this may seem to be a more appealing proposition than the age-old messages of balance and moderation, these people are missing out on the health benefits of grains.”

“There is confusion among Australians about grains and legumes so broader education and awareness would help people to better understand why they should eat them, how much they should be eating and how to make better food choices when out shopping,” Broom added.

“Based on the body of evidence and the Australian Dietary Guidelines, the Grains & Legumes Nutrition Council recommends that Australians enjoy grain foods three to four times per day, choosing at least half as whole grain or high fibre.”

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