Yes, we’re talking grains, those of the amber waves and the base of the now-defunct food pyramid. Specifically, let’s take a look at the concept of multigrain. Not to be confused with the multiverse, multigrain is an adjective food manufacturers love to use because it sounds healthy, but what does it really mean? Is multigrain food better for you? Is multigrain the same thing as whole wheat? At the risk of going against the grain, let’s find out.
What does multigrain mean?
To paraphrase Lyle Lanley from the classic monorail episode of The Simpsons, “multi” means “more than one” and grain means “grain.” Yes, multigrain refers to a product that uses more than one type of grain. Oftentimes the grains that are used are wheat, barley, flax, and oats, but other grains can also be included. Some people may think multigrain means healthy, but really, the word “multigrain” doesn’t promise anything beyond the presence of two or more grains.
Multigrain vs whole wheat
Both “multigrain” and “whole wheat” sound healthy, no? However, while multigrain does mean that there’s more than one type of grain in the product, it doesn’t mean that the grains in there are whole grains. They could be bleached and processed and still not use the germ and bran of the wheat, meaning that white bread and multigrain bread might not be that dissimilar from a nutritional standpoint. Whole wheat is heartier and more nutritious than whole grains, so it’s a better choice if you’re trying to be health-conscious.
What is multigrain bread?
While it’s easy to say that multigrain bread is bread made from multiple grains, that’s really the truth. Beyond this, multigrain bread can still be bleached, dyed, or otherwise processed, and doesn’t use the entire grain, making it similar to white bread nutritionally.
Oftentimes companies will add nuts or seeds to the outside of these breads to provide additional nutritive value and also make the loaves look a little more healthy. But if you’re looking for heartier bread that uses the entire grain, whole wheat or whole grain is the way to go.
What is multigrain cereal?
At the risk of sounding repetitive, multigrain cereal is, of course, cereal made from multiple grains. Again, “multigrain” doesn’t necessarily mean that these breakfast items are health-conscious choices—if you’re grabbing a cereal full of sugar or high fructose corn syrup, it still has all the associated issues despite having more than one type of grain, so be sure to take a look at the ingredients list.
Related: The Best Whole Grain Cereal
There are actually a bunch of multigrain cereals on the market, so finding one that fits your purposes shouldn’t be too hard. If you’re looking to stay in the classics realm, there are multigrain versions of both Cheerios and Life.
What are multigrain chips?
Look, I’m not going to repeat for a third time that multigrain chips are chips made from multiple grains, all right? You know this by now.
Here is another area where the labeling “multigrain” may sound healthier than it actually is. Keep in mind that a lot of chips are fried in oil, so whether they’re multigrain or just made from wheat or corn, they’re still not a super healthy choice. Always read the nutrition label and ingredients list to get the full picture of your grocery store items.
If you are hankering for some multigrain chips, examples include Sun Chips and Late July, and brands such as Tostitos now make a multigrain version of their product.
Now that you know the truth about multigrain, you can go out to the grocery store confident that you are an informed consumer.
Related: The Best Multigrain Crackers