Cereal foods are an important source of carbohydrates and dietary fiber in our diet. Epidemiological evidence increasingly demonstrates that a diet rich in whole grain is protective against development of diet-related disorders such as cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes. The majority of cereal foods today, however, are made from refined wheat flour. The grain processing industry therefore faces challenges and opportunities to produce new ingredients and foods with added value for consumer health. Against this background, the European Community decided to support the HEALTHGRAIN project (www.healthgrain.org) over the 2005–2010 period as part of the 6th framework food research program. HEALTHGRAIN aims to improve the well-being of mankind and to reduce the risk of metabolic syndrome–related diseases in Europe by increasing the intake of protective compounds in whole grains or their fractions. It presents an integrated, multidisciplinary effort to determine variation in composition, process-induced changes and human metabolism of bioactive compounds in the major European bread grains wheat and rye, and to reveal the physiological mechanisms underlying their role in the prevention of metabolic syndrome and related diseases. The target bioactive compounds are vitamins (folate, tocols, choline), phytochemicals (lignans, sterols, alkylresorcinols, phenolic acids) and indigestible carbohydrates (dietary fiber). Also other product characteristics that may add to the metabolic benefits of whole grain products are promoted. The work is carried out in 17 work packages, distributed over five modules, and carried out by 43 organizations from 15 European countries.