Grains - a major source of sustainable protein for health

Nutr Rev. 2022 May 9;80(6):1648-1663. doi: 10.1093/nutrit/nuab084.


Cereal grains are the main dietary source of energy, carbohydrates, and plant proteins world-wide. Currently, only 41% of grains are used for human consumption, and up to 35% are used for animal feed. Cereals have been overlooked as a source of environmentally sustainable and healthy plant proteins and could play a major role in transitioning towards a more sustainable food system for healthy diets. Cereal plant proteins are of good nutritional quality, but lysine is often the limiting amino acid. When consumed as whole grains, cereals provide health-protecting components such as dietary fiber and phytochemicals. Shifting grain use from feed to traditional foods and conceptually new foods and ingredients could improve protein security and alleviate climate change. Rapid development of new grain-based food ingredients and use of grains in new food contexts, such as dairy replacements and meat analogues, could accelerate the transition. This review discusses recent developments and outlines future perspectives for cereal grain use.

Keywords: cereal food; health; nutrient; proteins; sustainable diet; whole grains.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Dietary Fiber* / analysis
  • Edible Grain* / chemistry
  • Humans
  • Nutritive Value
  • Plant Proteins
  • Whole Grains


  • Dietary Fiber
  • Plant Proteins