For an America struggling with obesity, whole grains are a lot more than just fiber. Whole grains are virtually complete foods. They’re the foods upon which all civilizations were built.
Every seed has the potential to become a plant, carrying in its germ all the elements needed for growth, including the starch it uses as an energy source. And while a generation ago “whole grain” was synonymous with whole wheat, today’s consumer eagerly accepts a variety of whole grains with different tastes, textures, and nutrient content.
“Variety is the key to gaining mainstream acceptance of whole grains into the American diet,” says Cassidy Stockton, marketing specialist for Bob’s Red Mill Natural Foods (www.bobsredmill.com), Milwaukie, Ore. “If an individual doesn’t care for brown rice, they may find that quinoa is a much more interesting alternative that cooks faster and can be used in much the same way.”
Quinoa is a perfect example of how rapidly the domestic palate expanded when it came to whole grains. The ancient South American staple — actually a seed from a plant related to tumbleweeds — went from obscure to nearly mainstream in short order once the marketing strategy of “ancient” and “heritage” grains took hold. The group of whole grains collectively known as “ancient grains,” grains with a history of supporting the health of ancient civilizations, held allure to a consumer recognizing the need to incorporate whole grains into the diet but bored by ubiquitous whole wheat.
When processors began to incorporate some of these ingredients into mainstream-type products — for instance, the Sunrise line of RTE cereals with amaranth from Nature’s Path Foods Inc. — the public had a familiar vehicle to facilitate trying the unfamiliar grains.
“I believe as more and more people try these ancient grains, we will [continue to] see an increase in their consumption,” says Stockton. “These grains are not available as refined, so anyone who is interested in amaranth [for example] is getting whole-grain amaranth, which would be a much healthier option over refined white rice,” adds Stockton.