The food-based dietary guidelines in the Scandinavian countries that recommend an intake of minimum 75 g whole grain per 10 MJ (2,388 kcal) per day are mainly derived from prospective cohort studies where quantitative but little qualitative details are available on whole grain products. The objective of the current paper is to clarify possible differences in nutritional and health effects of the types of whole grain grown and consumed in the Scandinavian countries. A further objective is to substantiate how processing may influence the nutritional value and potential health effects of different whole grains and whole grain foods. The most commonly consumed whole grain cereals in the Scandinavian countries are wheat, rye, and oats with a considerable inter-country variation in the consumption patterns and with barley constituting only a minor role. The chemical composition of these different whole grains and thus the whole grain products consumed vary considerably with regard to the content of macro- and micronutrients and bioactive components. A considerable amount of scientific substantiation shows that processing methods of the whole grains are important for the physiological and health effects of the final whole grain products. Future research should consider the specific properties of each cereal and its processing methods to further identify the uniqueness and health potentials of whole grain products. This would enable the authorities to provide more specific food-based dietary guidelines in relation to whole grain to the benefit of both the food industry and the consumer.
Keywords: health effects; nutrients; phytochemicals; processing; whole grain.