In a discussion earlier this month at the Institute of Food Technologists’ annual meeting and food exposition in Anaheim, Calif., Theresa A. Nicklas, a professor in the Department of Pediatrics at the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, suggested that the differences between various whole grains should be the subject of discussion for the Dietary Guidelines advisory committee. A past committee member herself, Dr. Nicklas noted that the fiber content of grains varies widely.

Another speaker, Michael Falk, executive director of Life Sciences Research Office, Inc., noted the fiber content of whole grains varies from 3.4% for brown rice to 17.3% for hulled barley.

Focusing on these differences seems a poor idea for a country already prone to pitting so-called good foods and bad foods against one another. This approach threatens to oversimplify the value of whole grains and to overcomplicate a subject still new to the public.

As concerns about nutrition and health intensify, the Dietary Guidelines struggle to remain relevant. If the Guidelines are to effect positive changes in eating habits, better ideas are required.