More people are going for wholegrain products, which are rich in antioxidants
If you think fruits and vegetables are the best source for your daily dose of antioxidants, you are mistaken. Think whole grains instead. More antioxidants are found in unrefined grains, according to data that has emerged in the last decade. Compared with most vegetables, for instance, whole grains have about five times more antioxidants. This is one key finding that researchers are discovering in the unrefined grains that have long been shunned for their gritty taste and coarse texture compared with those of their refined counterparts. Given the increasing amount of information demonstrating their nutritious properties that combat anything from diabetes to obesity, whole grains are shaping up to be the latest “wonder food” and many consumers here are jumping on the bandwagon.
Retailers who spoke to The Sunday Times said there has been a steady increase in demand for wholegrain products in recent years. Whole grains are grains that retain their three components – bran, endosperm and germ – after milling. They can be eaten on their own, like brown rice and oatmeal, or made into other products, such as wholegrain rice vermicelli. Compared with refined grains that do not retain the bran and germ layers, whole grains are packed with more vitamins and fibre. At supermarket chain Cold Storage, there has been a 20 per cent increase in demand for wholegrain products yearly over the last three years. Similarly, Giant Hypermarket reported an increase in demand of about 10 per cent to 15 per cent over the same period. This is despite the fact that wholegrain products are more expensive. Four supermarket chains told The Sunday Times that wholegrain products are priced about 5 per cent to 20 per cent higher than their regular counterparts. This trend has been attributed to a changing consumer mindset. A spokesman for Cold Storage said: “Consumers are becoming more health-conscious and aware of the nutritional benefits of wholegrain consumption.” To meet the growing demand, the supermarkets are offering more varieties of wholegrain products. Supermarket chain Shop N Save now carries about 30 wholegrain products.
Three years ago, it had about 10 such products. FairPrice, the chain of supermarkets and department stores, has even developed wholegrain versions of its housebrand products, including rice, bread and rolled oats. There are about 10 such housebrand products offered at its stores now, and the company is looking into increasing the range further. The supermarket chain has seen a 10 per cent increase in sales for its brand of wholemeal bread in the last three years. The Health Promotion Board (HPB) has also launched a Healthier Hawker Programme, in which hawkers serve dishes that use wholegrain ingredients such as brown rice and wholegrain noodles. Since the programme started in April, several stalls have reported a 10 per cent to 20 per cent increase in sales, said an HPB spokesman. The increased demand has also translated into wholegrain versions of more unusual items. At Cold Storage outlets, customers may look forward to wholegrain versions of snacks such as lentil chips as well as Japanese soba noodles. Products targeted at the young are also appearing on supermarket shelves, such as wholegrain cereal bars for toddlers at FairPrice.
A recent study commissioned by Nestle Breakfast Cereals showed that out of more than 200 Singaporean mothers surveyed, 96 per cent are aware of the benefits of whole grains. The survey, conducted by research company Taylor Nelson Sofres, also found that 72 per cent of mothers now believe that whole grains are important for their children’s health. “Until just a couple of years ago, people thought that whole grains were not a good source for antioxidants, but now we know they are,” said Dr Frank Thielecke, corporate nutrition science manager of Cereal Partners Worldwide. “The problem was that, until very recently, the methodology and the laboratories weren’t sophisticated enough to test those antioxidants in whole grains,” he explained.
Antioxidants protect our body against the effects of free radicals, which damage cells. Free radicals are produced through natural processes, such as when your body breaks down food, or through environmental factors like tobacco smoke. Whole grains contain more vitamins E and B as well as more minerals, such as magnesium and zinc, compared with their regular counterparts. Unrefined grains are also useful for weight management because they increase satiety and help individuals feel full longer, thus reducing the tendency to overeat. According to guidelines from the HPB, adults should aim to consume two to three servings of whole grains daily. One serving is equivalent to half a bowl of brown rice or two slices of wholemeal bread.