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Wheat and other grains are most beneficial when in wholegrain form, as they contain greater levels of vitamin E and fibre. For most cereals milling removes the outer husk and the nutrient rich germ, leaving the core to be processed and refined into, for example, white flour and polished rice. Refined products usually have vitamins added to fortify the end result.

Barley – a staple food in the Middle East but in the West is mainly used in brewing, distillers and for animal feed. Pearl barley, used in soups and stews is highly refined and offers plenty of carbohydrate but little in terms of vitamins and minerals.

Maize – or corn is gluten free and the base of many foods including popcorn, cornflour, polenta and corn syrup (a sweetener used in many manufactured products). It is also used by distillers for American whiskeys.

Millet – is gluten free and mainly used in flatbreads from Asia and North Africa.

Oats – are a valuable staple food as they cannot be refined only milled into different products. Compared to other grains oats supply more linoleic acid, B vitamins, Vitamin E, protein and soluble fibre. Oats can have a dramatic effect on moderately raised blood cholesterol levels; they can act as a nerve sedative and help control blood sugar levels. Oat bran also contains soluble fibre, which can help to reduce blood cholesterol.

Rice – is a staple food for over half the world’s population. Nutritionally brown rice contains more vitamins and minerals than white rice, but polished rice cooks a lot quicker than brown. Rice has been used to treat digestive disorders (white rice is better in this instance as it does not irritate the stomach or bowel).

Rye – is used to make certain types of bread (rye and pumpernickel) and crisp breads.

Wheat – is classified as hard or soft depending upon the gluten content. The hardest is durum which is used to make pasta. The softer lower gluten flours are preferred for biscuits, cakes and pastries. Couscous is made by grinding the wheat endosperm into semolina flour and then mixing it with water to make the tiny pellets, which are steamed before eating. Bulgur wheat has to be soaked before eating.