Beware food fads, don’t go against the grain​

Consumer food trends swing toward nutrition, healthy eating grains and legumes


National Issues
Food fads have not been kind to whole grains and legumes, with consumption dropping markedly in recent years. But numbers are on the up and farmers are well placed to cash in.

Food fads have not been kind to whole grains and legumes, with consumption dropping markedly in recent years. But numbers are on the up and farmers are well placed to cash in.

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Grains and legume advocates eye potential in healthy trends

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Popular trends have not been to kind to some of the foods which present farmers’ produce in its healthiest forms, such as whole grains and legumes.

But the Grains and Legumes Nutrition Council is hoping to help turn these trends around and swing eating habits toward healthier options.

Popular low-carbohydrate, high protein fad diets like paleo have driven the consumer trend away from grain consumption.

A study from the GLNC, which surveyed 1200 Australians over 2 days about their diet, found that by 2014 60 per cent of Australians were limiting grain foods, leading to a whopping 30pc decline in average daily serves of grain foods.

In 2014, 60 per cent of Australians were limiting their grain consumption, the GLNC found. But now, the number of people putting a cap on grain consumption has shrunk to 47pc.

Legume consumption is another promising trend, being driven by the popularity , with a 4pc increase in consumption of legumes in the past three years.

The turnaround is driven by increasing awareness of the health properties of whole foods and a plant-based diet, particularly the benefits from grains and pulses to digestive health and chronic disease.

GLNC’s launch of its consumption study in Sydney yesterday and guest speaker was dietician and health advocate Dr Joanna McMillan.

She said while popular food fads can have a negative impact on some demographics, mainstream dietary concerns centred on consistent issues - especially in the bush.

“When I speak in regional areas, the questions I get are from people who are struggling with their household budget, wondering how they can feed their family more healthily,” Dr McMillan said.

“There’s a luxury choice to be made in new food trends, most people are just dealing with real issues.”

Hype around high fat, low carb diets and other new food trends directed attention away from more important issues, she said.

“We spend too much time in the media talking about paleo diets or the next super food. We have to talk more to the people who have the biggest health problems, and that includes the indigenous population.”

GLNC general manager Dr Sara Grefenauer said 73 pc of Australians do not eat their daily recommended target of whole grains.

“Taste and habit are barriers, and people are also unaware of all the benefits of whole grains and legumes,” Dr Grefenauer said.

The average Australian eats 6 serves of grain foods a day, down 2.5 serves since 2011.

Those six serves include two serves of whole grain choices, or roughly 28 grams worth, well short of the 48g daily recommended target - or three to four serves.

That means 73pc of people don’t achieve their recommended daily intake, Dr Grefenauer said.

GLNC marketing manager Alexandra Locke said despite challenges in the Australian market, there are some positive trends toward increased grain and legume consumption.

Vegetarians comprise 11pc of the population, Australia is the world’s third-fastest growing vegan market and the “flexitarian” trend - which advocates a plant-based diet is gaining popularity.

Consumer’s desire for traceability has extended to grains and legumes and producers are looking to cash in.

There is a burgeoning fleet of farmer branded grain and legume products, including The Lupin Co.’s lupin flakes, Dad’s Oats from Natte Yallock and South Australia’s Laucke Flour from Kangaroo Island.

“Snackification” of the diet is a growing trends, especially among Millennials and two out of three Australians purchase food as part of a new trend, Ms Locke said.

But we are also increasingly focused health and grains and legumes are well placed to capitalise.

Consumers want to feed the benefit of their food,” Ms Locke said, “and that benefit must be intrinsic to the food they eat (such as in whole grain products.”

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