Cereal products provide 50 % of iron and 30 % of zinc in the UK diet. However, despite having high content, the bioavailability of minerals from cereals is low. This review discusses strategies to increase mineral bioavailability from cereal-based foods. Iron and zinc are localised to specific tissue structures within cereals; however, the cell walls of these structures are resistant to digestion in the human gastrointestinal tract and therefore the bioaccessibility of these essential minerals from foods for absorption in the intestine is limited. In addition, minerals are stored in cereals bound to phytate, which is the main dietary inhibitor of mineral absorption. Recent research has focused on ways to enhance mineral bioavailability from cereals. Current strategies include disruption of plant cell walls to increase mineral release (bioaccessibility) during digestion; increasing the mineral:phytate ratio either by increasing the mineral content through conventional breeding and/or agronomic biofortification, or by reducing phytate levels; and genetic biofortification to increase the mineral content in the starchy endosperm, which is used to produce white wheat flour. While much of this work is at an early stage, there is potential for these strategies to lead to the development of cereal-based foods with enhanced nutritional qualities that could address the low mineral status in the UK and globally.

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