Our Perspective on the 2010 Dietary Guidelines

The Grain Foods Foundation applauds the 2010 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee members for their scrutiny of the research which continues to show the importance of both whole and enriched grains in a healthful diet.

We agree fully with the committee’s emphasis on the importance of calorie balance and physical activity. Likewise, encouraging Americans to choose from nutrient-dense foods for their daily calorie intake is important. Grain foods are an essential part of a balanced diet that can help Americans meet their nutrient requirements.

We also support the recommendation that Americans consume at least three one-ounce servings of whole grains per day, which is nearly three times what the average adult is currently eating. Research shows that whole grains can help lower blood pressure and the risk of heart disease. Whole grains also improve satiety and regularity.

That said, we’d like to clarify the Committee’s use of the word refined grains, as there are a variety of non-whole grain products which provide health benefits. For example, enriched grains represent an important, nutrient-dense group of foods essential for a balanced diet and healthy weight. Enriched grains are a source of essential nutrients such as B vitamins including thiamin, riboflavin and niacin as well as folic acid and iron. In fact, enriched grains are the number one source of folic acid in Americans’ diets. They are especially important for women of child-bearing age, as acknowledged by the recommendation that they consume 400 micrograms of folic acid per day. Since 1998 when the FDA mandated that enriched grains be fortified with folic acid, the rate of neural tube birth defects has decreased by approximately one-third in the U.S. The need for folic acid is particularly critical among Hispanic women, who are twice as likely to have a baby born with a neural tube defect. CDC acknowledges that enriched grains, rather than supplements, are responsible for lowering the rate of neural tube birth defects as they are the largest source of folic acid in the American diet.