What are Whole Grains

Whole-grain foods were traditionally widely consumed in Africa and around the world until large-scale industrial milling was developed. Industrial milling greatly reduced the cost of producing refined meals and flours, which resulted in a great increase in consumption of refined grain food products such as very white ugali, white bread and white rice.

Over the past 15 years, however, there has been ever increasing interest in whole grain foods.  This is as result of recent indisputable scientific evidence that regular consumption of whole grain foods contributes to prevention of the very common diseases such as obesity, Type 2 diabetes, coronary and cardiovascular diseases and certain cancers.  These health benefits are primarily due to the much higher dietary fibre content of whole grain foods.

Source: Fortified Food Initiative 2021 Annual Report, 21st Century Processing Innovations for Africa (2022)

Source: Branca et al. BMJ 2019;364:l296

Additionally, whole grain foods contain substantially higher amounts of essential nutrients than refined-grain foods, most notably: B-vitamins, Vitamin E, Iron, Zinc and other minerals, High quality proteins, Essential fats and Dietary fibre .  Most if not all of these nutrients are deficient in the diets of at-risk groups in Africa, especially children and women of childbearing age.

Furthermore, because the milling extraction rate for whole grain meal and flour from cleaned grain is nearly 100%, the yield of meal and flour per ton is much higher than with refined milling products, normally at least 20% higher.  Also, the cost of their production can be somewhat less that of the equivalent refined milling products where the bran and germ by-products are generally sold at a much lower price than the meal and flour.  In practice, the cost is normally more or less the same as other issues have to be given more attention in whole grain milling.