THURSDAY, Jan. 17 (HealthDay News) -- Many whole grain products aren't quite as healthy as consumers might think, new research contends, but some are healthier than others.
"There is lots of confusion" about how to find the healthiest whole grain foods, said study author Rebecca Mozaffarian, project manager at the Harvard School of Public Health's Prevention Research Center.
That confusion, she said, is due to at least five different industry and government guidelines that define a product as whole grain. The different standards are set by industry, the government and the American Heart Association.
Mozaffarian's team looked at more than 500 products available at the grocery store -- including breads, bagels, cereals, crackers, granola bars, chips and other foods. They took into account not only whole grain content but total calories, trans fats (if any), sugars and sodium.
The research is not meant to discourage people from choosing and eating foods with whole grains, but to help them choose which ones are the healthiest overall, the study authors noted.
"We were trying to see which definition worked best for identifying the healthiest whole grain products,'' Mozaffarian explained.
The study does address an important issue: what qualifies a food to be classified as a good source of whole grains, said Alice Lichtenstein, professor of nutrition sciences at Tufts University in Boston.
"Clearly, existing guidance to the consumer is fuzzy," Lichtenstein acknowledged.
However, some of the differences found by the Harvard researchers were small, Lichtenstein noted, with an average of only nine calories separating some of the most healthy products from the less healthy ones.
That didn't mean the researchers did not find differences in overall nutritional value, depending on the standard used for the product.
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