Grains Will Reign
By Marcia Scheideman
Wheat Foods Council President
I really do believe that. Why else would I have left a good job with a prestigious institution, uprooted my family, and moved 1,500 miles away to become president of the Wheat Foods Council (WFC)? It’s because I believe. I believe in the message that grains are essential to health. I believe in our members and their desire to communicate the message.
And I believe in the messenger. The WFC has been around for a long time, and it supports the grain industry by providing information that helps promote grain-based foods including snacks and baked foods.
One of the key roles of the WFC is to advance the image of grain-based foods. We do that by drawing on an arsenal of assets including the collection of credible professional materials, relationships with third party experts and alliances with other industry groups. For more than 32 years, the Wheat Food Council has had superior standing among nutrition professionals and a strong presence in public policy arena.
And, of course, science is on our side — for whole grains as well as enriched and fortified grains.
WFC has earned high credibility rating in the nutrition community as reported in a survey conducted just last year. They believe in the WFC and in what we have to say. We use the science that already exists to address issues of concern. Here are some issues that are important to the health of Americans and impact your business.
First, obesity is the fastest growing nutrition related trend in our country. Grains are part of the solution, not the problem, as recently purported by some groups. Scientific studies have proven over and over that carbohydrates are the basis of a healthy diet.
Second, physical activity for the first time is part of the recommendations included in MyPyramid. The carbohydrates found in grain-based foods are an excellent source of energy and fuel activity. We know that carbohydrate rich foods feul the body during exercise and are the only source of energy used by the brain.
Third, whole grain foods help lower rates of heart disease, diabetes, certain cancers and aid in weight loss. We have research to back this up. Individuals are advised to get at least half their grains as whole grains. So if half is good, is all better? Not necessarily and here’s why.
Folic acid and many other nutrients, for instance, are found in enriched and fortified grains. In fact, the amount of folic acid in enriched bread is twice that in whole grains. It has been shown to improve heart health, improve memory, decrease birth defects and help prevent childhood leukemia. Fortification also plays a key role in this.
We have strong science to support these issues, but it doesn’t stop there. The WFC is embarking on an effort to demonstrate through evidence based research, the nutritional benefits of grains in the diet. Beginning with the 2004-2005 fiscal year, WFC is supporting research to examine the effect of high-carbohydrate versus low-carbohydrate diets on cardiac risk factors and insulin sensitivity. Subsequent studies will be part of a long-term strategy that will build on each other to create a broader picture for the entire grains category.
The time is now. Grains are on course and getting positive media attention. The 2005 Dietary Guidelines and MyPyramid messages confirmed what we already knew: Grains are fundamental in building a healthy diet and dealing with many of the nutrition-related issues we face.
What are the overall messages? Moderation, variety, increased physical activity, and gradual improvement. That’s what the research tells us works. It is not sexy or dramatic, but it is effective.
Remember the story about the tortoise and the hare? Remember who won? Eating more whole and enriched grains, fruits and vegetables, lean meats and low-fat dairy products and being more physically active is a start. Moreover, we need to do all this while keeping cognizant of moderation and a variety of foods. It’s not flashy, but slow steady progress is the message that’s tried and true. Implementing a slow but sure change in our lifestyles will get us to the finish line, just like the tortoise.
Helping translate the messages of the 1005 U.S. Dietary Guidelines and MyPyramid for your customers is something that we do, and we do it very well.
WFC is the only national organization that promotes the entire category of wheat-based foods including bread, cereal, crackers, pasta, sweet goods and tortillas. You will be happy to know that along with state wheat commissions, millers, bakers and industry partners, the WFC is working to change misconceptions about grain foods. We are building on the corroboration provided by the Dietary Guidelines committee in their review of nutrition research and the subsequent development of MyPyramid in order to send a clear message about the importance of grain foods.
Join your grain industry partners in the funding of the WFC. We support and are supported by the entire industry. WFC puts the entire picture together and sends a consistent accurate message that grains are good.
I am confident that grains will once again take center stage as the foundation of the American diet. How will this happen? It will happen because of people like you and me.
We can do it, you can help. For more information about the services provided by the Wheat Foods Council, educational materials, or membership opportunities, call 303-840-8787 or visit us on line at www.wheatfoods.org.
Marcia Scheideman is currently president of the Wheat Foods Council. Her responsibilities include administration of the national office and public relations program and serving as the council’s spokesperson to the media, government, trade organizations and the grain industry. She holds a bachelor’s degree in home economics education from Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, a master’s degree in education from Syracuse University in Syracuse, N.Y., and is a registered dietitian. Previous positions include regional director with Cornell Cooperative Extension, manager of Cooking School for large retail grocery chain, nutrition educator for National Dairy Council, Libby, McNeill and Libby, Inc and instructor in several college level dietetic programs.