You Asked: What is the Whole Grains Council?

By , SparkPeople Blogger

The dailySpark reader PCGOTMOOSE recently asked about the Whole Grains Council and the significance of their emblem on products at the supermarket.

According to a 2007 Hartman Group report, a majority of shoppers are aware of and trust packaging symbols such the American Heart Association heart-check mark, the U.S.D.A. Organic Symbol, standard Recycling symbols and the Whole Grains Stamp.

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans issued in 2005 recommends three whole grain servings or more per day. Likewise, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services define a complete serving as one that contains at least 16 grams of whole grains. The Whole Grains Stamp is not new but it can assist you in your quest for healthier eating.

What is the Whole Grains Council?

The council is "a nonprofit consumer advocacy group working to increase consumption of whole grains for better health." Their focus appears to be fourfold :

  1. To encourage the creation of great tasting whole grain products
  2. To assist consumers in identification of whole grain foods
  3. To educate consumers regarding the health benefits of whole grains
  4. To support media in sharing accurate and interesting stories related to whole grains
Who Founded the Council?

In April 2002, a Whole Grains Summit organized by Oldways Preservation Trust was held in San Diego, California. Manufacturers, scientists, chefs, and millers attended the Summit and at its conclusion, many individuals decided it would be beneficial to work cooperatively with Oldways. Oldways was founded in 1990 by K. Dun Gifford with the primary intention of helping people make healthier food and drink choices. Today they remain "dedicated to changing the way people eat through practical and positive programs grounded in science and tradition." In addition to the Whole Grains Council, Oldways also supports its mission through the Latino Nutrition Coalition and the Mediterranean Foods Alliance.

What is the Whole Grains Stamp?

The stamp was first introduced in January of 2005 immediately following the updated release of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans that indicated at least half of our grain intake should be in the form of whole grains. The Whole Grains Stamp is a reliable identifier to help shoppers select products containing whole grains. There are two variations of the stamp. The 100% Stamp identifies grain products in which all grain ingredients are whole grain. In order to display the stamp, the product must have at least 16 grams of whole grains per serving. The basic stamp indicates products may contain some extra bran, germ, or refined flour but contains a minimum of 8 grams of whole grains per serving or is one-half a whole grain serving. In January 2008, the Whole Grains Menu Symbol was introduced for assistance with whole grain identification on restaurant menus. The simplified grain-sheaf image with the words "whole grain" provides clear imprinting on menus so interested restaurants can easily identify whole grain offerings.

What products contain the stamp?

The Whole Grains Stamp appears on over 3,300 products throughout 18 countries. There is an extensive list of qualifying products to assist you while you shop. However, care must be taken because while you will find this label on many nutrient rich whole grain sources such as 100% whole wheat bread, rolled oats, and brown rice, you will also find a 100% Stamp on snack foods such as chips, crackers, and cheese puffs.

What is the best way to use the stamp?

The stamp can be a wonderful food selection aid as you seek to meet the recommended whole grain intake each day. When you are looking at all the various bread options on the shelf, finding one with a 100% Whole Grains Stamp can ensure a healthy choice when you do not have your reading glasses to see all the fine print on the ingredient label or little time to do more than check the price and go. If you are selecting a snack item such as tortilla chips, it can be helpful in finding the better option. However, it is still important to remember it is a snack and perhaps not the most nutrient rich whole grain option and one that would still require good portion control practices.

Eating whole grains can reduce your risks of heart disease, stroke, cancer, diabetes, and obesity, which is why health experts agree we need to include more in our diets. The Whole Grains Council and their distinctive stamp can help you and your family easily find whole grain options as you shop.

Are you familiar with the Whole Grains Stamp and the Whole Grains Council? How will you use this information the next time you shop? How do you suggest increasing awareness regarding the Council and Stamp?

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Oh, thanks. When I see this label I'll run the other way.

Whole grains and refined grains, no difference: they both have gluten toxins if you're sensitive to them. There's a spectrum to the sensitivity with real and insidious symptoms. Please THOROUGHLY investigate before "going along" with what others think. It's YOUR QUALITY OF LIFE, not theirs. Do not believe the "whole grain" hype, either. I did, and I'm (and my family) are paying for my ignorance.

Thanks :). I feel there's always another side to a story. (Also consider not having to read labels: eat real food!)

More about celiac disease from Dr. Murray, Mayo Clinic:

(Know your family medical history. There are associated autoimmune diseases.) RESEARCH research research. I've been doing it since my celiac diagnosis four years now. Grains = pains! Report
Grains are fine. There is a lot of hype against them now. IT is a matter of stopping after a normal portion and not overeating. Report
I'm not convinced of any need other than economic for including any grain in the diet. We would do a lot better to eat fresh produce, particularly non-starchy vegetables, instead. Report
Thanks for the info. A stamp is much easier to recognize than to sift through the ingredients of each package to find true whole grain products. Also love the link to the list of products. That is invaluable as I can take it with me to the grocery store next time to find such goodies. Thanks again! Report
like most of you, I read labels, avoiding frutose (sp?) and anything with corn... very interesting Report
I have been reading labels for years, and never heard of this before. I will start looking for it. thanks for the heads up. Report
I always read the labels. Now I will be looking for that stamp for sure. Report
This blog was much needed for me. I was not aware that this stamp exsisted! Where have I been? I've read this from top to bottom and in-between and I have discovered that many of my choices at the market have this stamp on them and I didn't even know. Now it will be much easier for me to chose a whole grains product faster!!! I used to stand in the isles and read everything on the label and it has become so much harder in the last few years because of my eyesite. Thank you for this wonderful, informative, and neccessary education. Report
Thank you for the information. Very interesting. I will certainly be looking for the stamp when I shop. Report
I've seen the label- didn' t know what it meant- thanks~ Report
I have never seen this stamp...interesting blog! Report
I have never heard of this stamp. I usually read the ingred. anyway out of habit. Report
Makes no difference to me. I make my food choices according to the ingredient list, not what organization endorses them. It is possible to make junk food than has whole grains in it. Report
This is very informative. I never knew exactly who the Whole Grains Council is, and I really appreciate what they are doing! I think they could increase awareness by making the stamp bigger on food packages as well as an ad campaign. Report
I love cereals that have the stamp. Report
Are these guys like the SAME kind of council that dubbed FRUIT LOOPS a healthy breakfast choice. Oh, that's right... itFruit Loops were a BETTER breakfast choice. BETTER than a sugary donut! LOL! Report
Thanks for the info. I will look for this stamp. Report
I din't know about the stamp, but will start looking for it. Report
I always read every lable even IF it is stamped as a healthy !!
If you have to check to see if a food is healthy, it isn't. Report
I really appreciate your history of the stamp and how it was created, and I believe that their goals are admirable. However, I do not put much stock in shopping for foods that have the stamp because I feel like it's deceiving because it can be found on foods that, while they're made with whole grains, aren't really part of a healthy diet and contain empty calories. I think mostly of sugary cereals when I think of the stamp. It makes people think that they're making a good choice when they buy something like Coco Puffs just because it has the stamp.

Just my personal opinion, but it won't change my buying habits. Thanks for the information! Report
The Councils goals are admirable. Yes, the stamp does help a bit to ferret out better choices... but you still have to read the fine print.
If I am not sure but doesn't the Chocolate Cheerios have that stamp, and where is sugar on the list of ingredients?
As Tanya pointed out junk food can have whole grains, too. YOU still need to read the label.

You still need to ask yourself "Where's the Food?" when it comes to processed stuff. Report
Thanks for information. I will have to look for the label. Report
CFD32927 gotta read the labels! Report
Gotta agree w/ a lot of you - buyer/eater beware! Learn how to read the ingredients label and nutrition facts label - it's not that hard! Report
lots of helpfull info thank you Report
Looks like another kind of hype, like "Organic" "Natural," "low fat," or "Low Carb," in that it means very little outside their own little context. That's probably why I haven't noticed it. I just read the labels and nutrition information. These companies are all about marketing, they'll sell whatever they think we'll buy. I'm not interested in the hype so much as the actual content. Report
I've seen the stamp and disappointed that sometimes it just mean that there are some whole grains. I think most people don't know the difference, even those working in the bakery at my local store which sells some of the products. Thanks for the explanation. Report
Great information. Report
As always - buyer beware Report
This stamp is a time saver! Reading nutrition labels is a time consuming pain in the neck. Anything that makes it simpler to get the information we need is a big plus. Report
I agree with previous post. You absolutely have to --still read the labels. This draws your attention to the whole grains prescence but the rest of the contents must also be considered. Pat in Maine Report
I saw the stamp...I thought to my self "Healthy Product" and now I know the in-out of the story...Thanks for Sharing he information w/ me... Report
I did know about the stamp...but not all the details. Thanks for keeping us up to date. Report
Loved the information here. Report
Alot easier looking for the symbol than trying to read the label with bifocals!! Report
Thanks for the great info! Report
Interesting read. Yes it is good information and useful in shortlisting breads. Report
great thanks Report
No, I wasn't aware of it but after I read this I went to my kitchen and looked at a few foods I thought would be likely to have it and what do u know 2 out of 3 did. Report
Appreciate defining what the stamps stand for! Report
Thanks for the information. Report
So I guess that I'll now have to calculate how many grams of whole grains I get when I make my own homemade bread? Oh, bother! Report
I've also never seen this stamp, and I read the ingredient list of all new, "improved," or updated products I'm considering buying.

I never even noticed the stamp... but I will look more closely for it in the future.
I always look at labels before buying something new anyway. This way I can try to avoid unwanted food surprises. Report
There appears to be a trend, seems very few people have ever noticed this stamp and that should be telling of how few healthy foods are actually in the general stores. Also, if you've never noticed this symbol before and you eat a lot of grains chances are you need to take a serious look at your diet. Report
I have never noticed the stamp! Report
I think having the stamp is a good start but consumers still need to be educated that they need to look for the word "whole" as part of the first ingredient listed on the package. I also think the fact that 50% whole grain products receive the stamp can be misleading. Report
I honestly don't recall ever noticing this stamp. Thanks so much for the blog. I'll be on the lookout. Report