Guide to Whole Grains

Grain Basics

Whole grains contain all three parts of the grain kernel: the outer layer of bran, which contains fiber, B vitamins and antioxidants; the small inner germ, or embryo, which contains B vitamins, minerals and healthy fats; and the large carbohydrate-rich endosperm that supplies the growing plant with energy. Refining strips away the bran and germ, removing the fiber, B vitamins and iron. White flour and white rice are examples of refined grains. Enriched grains have some B vitamins and iron added back, but not the fiber.

In Search of Whole Grains

Eating whole grains reduces the risk of heart disease and diabetes and helps with weight control. Whole grains are nutritious and contain fiber, which fills you up so you eat fewer calories. The US Dietary Guidelines recommend that at least half of all grains eaten be whole grains.

Finding grains that are 100% whole can be a challenge. Multigrain, stone ground, and “made with whole grains” sound healthful, but they may be a mix of refined and unrefined grains. Color can also be misleading. Not all dark bread is whole grain; some have molasses or caramel coloring added. White bread is made from refined flour, but there is also white bread made with white whole wheat flour.

The best way to spot products with whole grains is to read the ingredient list. Since ingredients are listed in order by weight, from most to least, the key is to choose products that list “whole” as the first or second ingredient. The guide below can help you find whole grains.

Whole Grains
Amaranth Whole farro (semi-pearled has some of the bran removed)
Brown rice Whole grain barley
Buckwheat (kasha) 100% whole grain cereal
Bulgur Whole grain cornmeal
Millet Whole grain couscous
Oats (rolled oats, old-fashioned oats, oatmeal, toasted oats cereal) Whole grain or whole wheat tortilla
Popcorn Whole rye
Quinoa 100% whole wheat bread or whole wheat bread
Spelt Whole wheat crackers
Teff Whole wheat pasta
Triticale Whole wheat pita
Wheat berries Whole wheat rolls
White whole wheat flour Wild rice
Whole and/or Refined Grains
Made with whole grain; made with white whole grain (may contain whole grains and refined grains) Stone ground (coarsely ground, not always whole grain)
Cereal made with whole grains (may also contain refined grains) Whole wheat bagel (may contain whole wheat and refined wheat flour; check ingredients for 100% whole wheat)
Multigrain (several grains, usually not 100% whole grain) Whole wheat blend pasta
Refined Grains
Bagel Noodles, pasta, spaghetti
Breakfast cereal (without “whole” in the ingredient list) Pita
Couscous Rolls
De-germed cornmeal Wheat flour, enriched wheat flour, unbleached wheat flour
Flour tortillas White bread
Grits White rice

Not sure what to do with whole grains? Try these healthy and delicious recipes by Shape Up America! Chef Joanna.

Tabuli (Bulgur)
Roasted Pumpkin Quinoa (Quinoa)
Stuffed Pumpkin Granola (Oats)
Grilled Pita (Whole Wheat Pita)
Fusilli pasta (Whole Wheat)
Breakfast Treats (Rolled Oats)
Light Apple Crisp (Wheat Germ)
Farro Spring Salad (Farro/Wheat berry)

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