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Health & Nutrition

Goodness of Grains

Ancestry of grains:

Grains have been at the heart of our diets for at least 10,000 years. From maize in Mexico to rice in Asia to wheat in the near East, people around the world still rely on grains as an essential staple of their diets. 1,2

  • Goodness of Grains

Grains: An integral part of Indian diet

Cereals, millets and pulses are major sources of many nutrients including protein. They also serve as the main source of energy in Indian diets contributing to about 70-80% of daily energy intake of majority of Indians. The commonly consumed cereals and millets consumed in India are rice, wheat, maize, jowar, bajra and ragi.3

India ranks second in the world in the product of rice and wheat followed by maize. Bajra / pearl millet is the oldest known millet to mankind. Currently, India is the largest producer of this staple.4

Grains nourish!

Grains contain carbohydrates, the main energy source for our brain and muscles, protein, the building block of all cells, B vitamins, fibre and protein which are all key elements to a healthy diet. Combining cereals, millets and pulses provides most of the amino acids, which complement each other to provide better quality proteins.

Nutritional profile of commonly consumed grains:

Bag of Wheat grains Corn and small bags of Maize kernels

1. Wheat

  • Whole wheat is a source of complex carbohydrates. Typically contains 11-12% protein, 12% of dietary fibre3
  • Wheat bran is a good source of insoluble dietary fibre, B-vitamins and minerals5
  • Numerous scientific studies have shown that wheat bran is the gold standard for promoting bowel regularity6

2. Corn/Maize

  • Protein content varies from 8 to 11%. Most of it is concentrated in the kernel. The nutritional quality of maize as a food is determined by the amino acid make-up of its protein7
  • Yellow maize is the only grain with significant amounts of carotenes. These act as antioxidants and are converted to vitamin A in the body8
Basmati Rice in Heart shaped bowl Oats in Ceramic Bowl and Wooden spoon

3. Rice

  • Starch is the major constituent of milled rice at about 90% of the dry matter8
  • Lipid/fat content of rice is mainly in the bran fraction (20 percent, dry basis). Rice bran oil has been shown to have a cholesterol lowering effect and its main component is oryzanol8.

4. Oats

  • Is a good source of β – glucan, a soluble fibre which has cholesterol lowering effects and therefore considered heart healthy9
  • Lipid content of oats (5-9%) is higher than any other cereal crops and are rich in unsaturated fats, including the essential fatty acid linoleic acid9
  • Oats contain unique antioxidants, called avenanthramides, as well as the vitamin E-like compounds, tocotrienols and tocopherols9
Barley in Jute Bag Ragi in a bowl and powdered ragi in wooden spoon

5. Barley

  • Contains the highest amount of dietary fibre (15.6%) among the cereals3
  • Β-glucans content of barley ranges from 2.5% to 11.3% and oats if 2.2-7.8%10
  • Good source of B-complex vitamins (especially B1, B3, B6, biotin)10
  • Mineral content (2-4%) mainly phosphorus, magnesium, copper10

6. Ragi

  • Highest amount of calcium (344 mg/100 g) among all other cereals3
  • Ragi also has appreciable amounts of dietary fibre content (11.5 g/100 g) and has a protein content of (7.3 g/100 g)3
  • Among other millets, finger millet has a relatively balanced essential amino acid profile because it contains more lysine, threonine and valine11

Is there a “best” grain?

Grains provide many different nutrients at slightly different levels. Choosing a variety of grain foods is recommended to reap the nutritional benefits that each provides.

1 Damania, A.B., J. Valkoun, G. Willcox and C.O. Qualset (Eds.) 1998. The Origins of Agriculture and Crop Domestication. ICARDA, Aleppo, Syria, xi + 354 pp.

2 Warren, John. The Nature of Crops: How We Came to Eat the Plants We Do. Boston: CABI. Paperback.

3 Gopalan C, et al. Nutritive value of Indian foods. NIN & ICMR; 2010.

4 APEDA Apex update. Cereals: the grain export potential. April-June 2012. Available at:

5 Sramkova Z, et al. Chemical composition and nutritional quality of wheat grain. ActaChimicaSlovaca, Vol.2, No.1, 2009, 115 – 138.

6 Slavin J. Fiber and Prebiotics: Mechanisms and Health Benefits. Nutrients. 2013;5(4):1417-1435.

7 Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. Maize in Human Nutrition. Rome, 1992.

8 Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. Rice in Human Nutrition. Rome, 1993.

9 Young, Vl.L. Oats lipids and lipid-related enzymes. In: Oats – Chemistry and Technology. Ed. Francis H. Webster. St. Paul, MN: American Association of Cereal Chemists, 1986.

10 Barley: Milling and processing In Encyclopedia of grain science. Edited by Wrigley C, Corke H, walker C. Published by Elsevier-Academic press, Volume 3: 2004.

11 Ravindran G (1992). Seed proteins of millets: amino acid composition, proteinase inhibitors and in vitro digestibility. Food Chem., 44(1): 13-17.

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