Toggle Main Menu Toggle Search

Open Access padlockePrints

Health benefits of whole grain: effects on dietary carbohydrate quality, the gut microbiome and consequences of processing

Lookup NU author(s): Emeritus Professor Chris SealORCiD



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).


Grains are important sources of carbohydrates in global dietary patterns. The majority of these carbohydrates, especially in refined-grain products are digestible. Most carbohydrate digestion takes place in the small intestine where monosaccharides (predominantly glucose) are absorbed, delivering energy to the body. However, a considerable part of the carbohydrates, especially in whole grains, is indigestible dietary fibers. These impact gut motility and transit and are useful substrates for the gut microbiota affecting its composition and quality. For the most part, the profile of digestible and indigestible carbohydrates and their complexity determine the nutritional quality of carbohydrates. Whole grains are more complex than refined grains and are promoted as part of a healthy and sustainable diet mainly because the contribution of indigestible carbohydrates, and their co-passenger nutrients, is significantly higher. Higher consumption of whole grain is recommended because it is associated with lower incidence of, and mortality from, CVD, T2D, and some cancers. This may be due in part to effects on the gut microbiota. While processing of cereals during milling and food manufacturing is necessary to make them edible, it also offers the opportunity to improve still further the nutritional quality of whole-grain flours and foods made from them. Changing the composition and availability of grain carbohydrates and phytochemicals during processing may positively affect the gut microbiota and improve health.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Seal CJ, Courtin CM, Venema K, de Vries J

Publication type: Review

Publication status: Published

Journal: Comprehensive Reviews in Food Science and Food Safety

Year: 2021

Volume: 20

Issue: 3

Pages: 2742-2768

Print publication date: 01/05/2021

Online publication date: 07/03/2021

Acceptance date: 26/01/2021

ISSN (electronic): 1541-4337


DOI: 10.1111/1541-4337.12728