Havregryn. Foto: Colourbox

Whole grains play an important role in a healthy and plant-rich diet

Thursday 16 Jun 22


Lene Møller Christensen
Academic Officer
DTU National Food Institute
+45 35 88 75 11


Anja Pia Biltoft-Jensen
Senior Researcher, Head of Research Group
DTU National Food Institute
+45 35 88 74 25

About whole grain

Whole grains are defined as intact or processed grains, where the contents of endosperm, bran and germ are present in the same relative proportion as in the intact grains. Whole grains are e.g., wheat, rye, oats, barley, rice and millet.

A whole-grain product contains a certain amount of whole grain. For example, whole-grain bread with the Danish Whole Grain Logo contains at least 30 g whole-grain flour or another type of whole grain per 100 g bread.

Read more about whole grain on the website for The Danish Whole Grain Partnership.

That whole-grain products are an important part of a healthy, sustainable and plant-rich diet is shown by a scientific assessment prepared by DTU National Food Institute for The Danish Veterinary and Food Administration. Additionally, grain products are among the foods with the lowest climate footprint.

The need to eat a varied diet is probably not a surprise to anyone. Researchers from DTU National Food Institute state in a scientific assessment that a varied intake of cereal grain products, and especially whole-grain products, is an important part of a healthy and plant-rich diet.

To vary the intake of whole-grain products, you can eat rye bread with or without seeds, whole-grain wheat bread, oatmeal, muesli, porridge of millet or barley, brown rice, whole-grain pasta, bulgur and couscous.

The assessment answers, among other things, questions about what amount of whole grain is related to health benefits in a northern European food culture, what amount of whole grain is needed in a Danish plant-rich diet to reach the Nordic recommendations for nutrient density and how large an intake of whole grain is realistic in the Danish food culture.

One of the conclusions is that an appropriate amount of cereal grain products is between 300 and 400 g per day for adults, while an appropriate amount of whole-grain products is between 150 and 250 g, depending on the type of whole-grain product. This means that at least half of the intake of cereal grain products should be whole-grain products.

An advantage for both health and climate

A higher intake of whole grain is associated with a lower risk of several noncommunicable diseases and mortality. However, other advantages are connected to cereal grain products as well. Besides contributing to energy, all cereal grain products contribute e.g., protein and selenium. Whole-grain products also contain dietary fiber, iron and zinc - and especially whole-grain products containing seeds contribute n-3 fatty acids.

Not only do whole-grain products contribute to a lower risk of disease and mortality, but they are also among the food products with the lowest climate footprint. Therefore, cereal grain products - and especially whole-grain products - are advantageous for both health and climate.

Read more

You can read more about the scientific assessment from DTU National Food Institute in the memo Scientific background for updating the recommendation for whole-grain intake (pdf).

The scientific assessment has been carried out at the request of The Danish Veterinary and Food Administration.