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Whole Grains
Newsletter • Thursday 29 October 2020

Dear friends

Let’s explore why so much refined, nutrient-poor food finds its way to our plates.

Before we dig deeper into whole grains, allow me a brief comment;
Maize and wheat are South Africa’s two staples. Most food scientists and nutritional scientists will argue that even as whole grains the two are not ideal to support child growth.

  • Maize is energy-rich and nutrient-poor,
  • Wheat’s high gluten content makes it risky for metabolic health.

Grade 5 biology taught us that a single grain consists of husks/bran, endosperm and the germ portions.

The same biology teacher must also have emphasized that the germ portion of the grain is the embryo or the essence of a plant. This is where proteins, fats, lipids, sugar and B vitamins hang out. Without the germ, there would be little interest in the grain by other species looking for food.

She might also have mentioned that most of the important trace minerals are found in the husks (or bran). Also, the endosperm harbors the carbohydrates or starch and some of the proteins.

Whole grains contain all three parts of the kernel. Refining removes the bran and the germ, leaving only the endosperm.

Picture courtesy to

If you paid attention in the Grade 7 history class, you might remember something about the Industrial Revolution.

This period around 1750-1850 brought about large water, wind and steam-powered flour mills. They replaced the small animal-powered stone mills matching the daily flour needs of the local community. 

For millennia flour millers knew that crushing grains caused the grains to start oxidizing or fermenting thus only milling enough to be used within weeks.

For storage and distribution, large scale food processing requires shelf-life.

Large millers were the first large-scale food processors. Yes, they were businesses. They were never also expected to care about the nutritional contents or values of their sold products. They thus just removed the culprits (the germs and husks) which limit the shelf-life by introducing sifting and air blowing processes.

Whiter and finer flours soon became ‘better’ and more desired by consumers. Especially when sugar additions in new recipes took shape.

Who can ever forget Marie Antoinette’s alleged comment during the French Revolution – Let them have cake?

Picture courtesy to

So why are there so many refined products available? 
The answer is simple: Shelve life!

My appeal to you

When growing children are fed grain-based meals, the grains at least need to be whole grains.

The majority of child cereals are the refined starches of grains. These meals are energy-rich and nutrient-poor. We are not too far off calling all of it puddings.

Yes, even our beloved ‘mielie-pap’ is a pudding. It does not provide real nourishment.

Picture courtesy to

Unprocessed or minimally processed foods: Think vegetables, grains, legumes, fruits, nuts, meats, seafood, herbs, spices, garlic, eggs and milk. If possible, make these real and whole foods the basis of a growing child's diet.

The Meal

StartWell is a highly nutritious morning meal aimed for underprivileged communities in South Africa. Due to the value of the ingredients, the product is too expensive to be channeled through normal retail and government sponsored feeding schemes. Therefore, an innovative business model was designed and endorsed by various industry specialists and social impact strategists.

Learn more

Friendly regards,

More Readings:
Academic Journals
Agri-Nutrition Research

Inani Start Well Foundation
Registered NGO: 207-917 NPO

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